Frank Black - Show Me Your Tears (CD)

Cooking Vinyl COOKCD262, released 8 September 2003

Frank Black has consistently produced a plethora of good quality albums, after the days when Charles Michael Kitridge Thompson IV used to be Black Francis and in the Pixies, and kicking ass like no other. When Charles went solo and changed to Frank Black, people were worried about the quality at first, but over the years he (and later his band, The Catholics) have done some great work, not least "Dog in the Sand" and the double release on the same day of "Black Letter Days" and "Devil's Workshop" last year.

With "Show Me Your Tears" Black warned beforehand that the album has a slightly more sad and downcast feel, and certainly just by a glance at the song titles on the CD with tracks like "This Old Heartache" demanding attention. But is it really that much so, or is it just another in a long line of well crafted guitar tunes? Well, after a good listen, I'd probably say it's a bit more mellow than some of the recent releases, but it's also really nicely done with even a slight country twang. Of course, it's done the standard FB way, that is: live to two track with no edits. It has its pluses and minuses for sure, but it does add to the immediacy and the almost live feel.

The opening track "Nadine" sets the way really nicely, although the mix means the vocals are a little muddled. It's basically a song about a goth girl called Nadine, dressed all in black: "I love the way she smells" exclaims Black. "She has a big grey car, she could take me for a ride". And there she goes, with a nice guitar workout at the end to finish the tune off. It does set the tone even though it's a bit rockier than most of the album. And so we mellow out to "Everything Is New" which reminds me of several other slower paced FB tracks, possibly a bad thing. However, when the sky is blue, you've got everything to do and it tells the tale of a band losing their members one way or another. Not too bad but it doesn't seem to hook me in as much as it should.

"My Favourite Kiss" is beautiful, and explains the kiss he liked, and how that was a memory as a journey he'll be going on from Baltimore to Dallas and Fort Worth, and that"In one more minute I'll be gone". It has a slightly country twinged guitar with some lovely acousitcs and is so simple, yet so well made. Nice and short and sweet and one of my favourite tracks of the album. "Jaina Blues" explains how he's working on various things, and like the title suggests is quite a downcast number. Not so bluesy maybe, but there's some good piano work that augments the thing pretty well - even getting its own little lead part. It does seem like the band crammed as much as they could into just under four minutes but it's just fast paced enough to get away with it.

"New House of the Pope" is more in the mellowing out territory. It's a really sad piece, as he's lost his love and gone drinking at the New House of the Pope, and how the character goes into a life of coffee, dope and drink as he feels more lonely. The guitar work is superb here, really detailing the downward spiral well, complimented really well by a piano. It really leads well into the next track "Horrible Day" as well, and that explains how you'd take something to make your worries go away, but they all come back. Quite paradoxical too: "it's a beautiful day, no it's a horrible day" with contradicting thoughts going throughout. In the end though it's a ittle defiant: "You can see here by my grin, I don't give a fuck" that's really well done in the context of the whole thing. It's a perfect tune so sing along to: can see this one being a live favourite.

"Massif Centrale" is quite neat: Frank adopts a different voice while singing some of the parts of the tune: probably intentional as he heads to France and looks for the love behaviour of a woman throughout: "darling, when I see you walk, you seem so very nice". As the tune builds, so does the rockiness of the whole thing, and gets intensely catchy throughout. Another one to rock out and sing along loudly to, and then the really sad end: "please don't turn away.." Next is a track a lot of us can refer to, and the best track on the album: "When Will Happiness Find Me Again". The lyrics will move you a little for sure, but not just that, it's dressed in a really nice workout that sounds like a band playing in a bar late at night joining in the sad feeling, full credit to them for pulling it off. To give you an idea: "I believed in the fates, I thought it was great, Till that girl left my poor heart in ruins, When will happiness find me again". The perfect Pogues song that Shane McGown never wrote, it's utterly perfect and one of Frank Black's best ever pieces. Completely so worth it.

"Goodbye Lorraine" goes back to country-rock country, and it's passable, as "she sends me perfumed letters and I throw them all away", and the lack of explanation for leaving is a good idea for a chorus line. It works, but only just. "This Old Heartache" on the other hand does really work well, starting off with a really moody piano solo and gradually blending in as part of the piece, and explaining the heartache that's already there, despite going off to Barcelona and drinking absinthe, and stuff like that. There's a reverbing guitar in there that does the job nicely of supplementing the tune, and it's a really lonesome piece. The perfect thing for late at night when you've come back from the pub and not met someone. Later on Frank gets more sad and less vocally in tune, probably intentionally as the heartache set in, and that works too.

"The Snake" is quite short, they call him the snake and he's just feeling his way, not bad either. With a very Roxy Music like saxophone part in the middle of the tune as well thrown in (Frank's well known for his love of the band, hence his Remake: Remodel cover as a B-side once). It works really well in the middle and breaks the tune down and it is in the background towards the end, giving it some kick. "Coastline" is at the start Frank Black does Bob Dylan circa 1965, with harmonica and acoustic guitar coming into a simple piece that gradually gets more countrified throughout. Another one in the short but sweet category that gives the right twinge of sadness but listenability. And then to "Manitoba" and deals quite well with being the last track. It details how "I have seen the face of God" and throughout the song it details how seeing the face of God turns the character mad, and that they were sent away. Frank sounds quite gruff in this piece, almost sounding like someone down and out, which surprisingly works really well. At the end there's a trumpet solo which comes in really well and ends everything on a really downward and sad note with some good guitar work as well complimenting things nicely.

So, overall, what do I think? Well, there's a few of the tracks that on first listen may sound a little like Frank's earlier work, but on the whole the mood is a little more downtrodden than some of his work, and there's some tracks that deserve to be singles and in the chart. "When Will Happiness Find Me Again" is just brilliant, utterly brilliant, and it's almost worth buying the album alone for, it's that good. There's many other good tracks here, and the Catholics musically are on top form. Not to mention his old Pixies-mate Joey Santiago helping out again with guitar (just a shame the liner notes don't tell you where, but that might be intentional) along with many others doing their bit to help the band out. The immediacy of the live to two track actually works well for once, as it's almost like a on the road collection of songs they wrote when they felt a little down. Despite that, you won't feel down when listening to it, instead a little uplifted with the fact that yet again, it's another good album from Frank Black. He tours live soon with the Catholics: I recommend highly you go and hear some of the tracks live. In the meantime run to the shops and purchase this!

Warren's rating: 87%