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Teenager of the Year

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Teenager of the Year

Artist: Frank Black
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: May 1994

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

As Black Francis, Frank Black (nee Charles Thompson) led the Pixies, one of the best bands of the 80's. They made great, fast songs, differentiated from other post punk music by Black's distinctive personality and quirky sense of fun. Towards the end of the Pixies' career and especially in his solo career, Black slowed down the songs and seemed more concerned with the quirky, fun part.  His first solo record was a disappointment. With the exception of the great remake of the Beach Boys' Hang on to Your Ego, there weren't many great songs. Teenager of the Year was a return to form. It's Black's best post Pixies work because, while it has lots of fun, weird touches, the quality of the songs is high. Black still knew how to rock. Don't be put off by the genuinely creepy cover showing Black as the proud winner of a beauty pageant, the music inside is great, basic rock. From the start of Teenager of the Year, Black shows he's ready to rock. It opens with two fast moshpit ready guitar songs both of which only need a minute and a half to create a great frenzied mood. Whatever Happened to Pong is a great, dopey tribute to the early video game. Thalassocracy is a giddy Ramones-like simple fast rocker, which still has time for a great guitar solo, where Black sings, "I want to sing for you and make your head go pop" and also spouts his weird philosophy. Things only slow down slightly for I Want to Live on an Abstract Plain, another fun rocker which, like the equally enjoyable Space is Gonna Do Me Good, is about Black's often expressed desire to find a world where he'll be understood. Most of the 22 songs on Teenager of the Year are fast and fun. Headache is a straight forward rocker.

As on much of the record,  ex-Pere Ubu keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman does a nice job filling out the sound. While most of the songs on Teenager of the Year are straight ahead rockers, Black does a fairly good job of making each song distinctive. Freedom Rock, where Black sings about his love of music, "Nobody owns the pleasure of tones", is a fast rocker that suddenly slows to ska rock before speeding up again. Two Reelers, Black's tribute to the Three Stooges, starts out with punkish speed then slows down to emphasize Black's plea in defense of the Three Stooges and maybe himself as well, "some gibberish it is so serious, what we need is more silly men." Black slows things down well on I Could Stay Here Forever, a nice midtempo rocker where Black's vocals are nice and unsarcastic. The middle of the cd has a few stupid songs like Ole Mulholland, which is endless and pointless. But the record picks up in the end with the very fun White Noise Maker and Pure Denizen of the Citizens Band, in which Black laments that truckers don't want to talk to him on his cb radio.  The last 3 songs, with the Pixies' Joey Santiago guesting on guitar, are particularly fun fast rock. On Pure Denizen, Black ends with a echoing godlike vocal. Pie In the Sky is a fun would-be dance song, apparently directing us to leave this universe. Sadly, Black's solo work has barely sold and he's no longer affiliated with a major label. Black is an original, distinctive talent and his cds, including his most recent ones with his new band, the Catholics, are worth searching for. As he showed clearly on Teenager of the Year, Black is an original, unique talent with a great ability to make an irresistable rock song.



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