Teenager Of The Year

Frank Black

Elektra, 1994


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


A messy, joyous album, Frank Black's Teenager Of The Year finds the former Pixie frontman turning in a project that is quite different in sound, but not spirit, from his former band's landmark alternative albums.

These songs retain the same garage rock spirit and off-kilter sense of humor of Doolittle but are more warmly produced, infused with a sort of giddiness of a musician trying something new and apart from his past. There is a strong Iggy Pop influence here in Black's voice, songwriting (check out "Calistan" and "The Vanishing Spies") and playing, as well as a slight Nirvana influence (funny, because the Pixies were the main inspiration for Nirvana). Frankly, any garage rock, punk or even ‘60s pop group has some input here, such is the range of music present in these 22 songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There is a strange sort of cohesion between the songs, even if many of them don't exactly stick in the listener's mind for long. "Calistan" is an early highlight, as is Black's higher register singing on "(I Want To Live On An) Abstract Plain" and the straightforward rock and vocal rings of "Speedy Marie." Probably the song that best sums up the disc is "Freedom Rock," a noisy, messy and funny Iggy-inspired piece that somehow works.

Black is clearly game to try anything, from the ballad "Sir Rockaby" to the punk "Two Reelers" to the Beatles/reggae mashup "Fiddle Riddle." "Ole Mulholland" and "Fazer Eyes" recall the Pixies days of yore (the latter could have been a Surfer Rosa leftover) , but they are the exception, as most of this shows the artist moving beyond his storied past. "Big Red" is a jaunty, bass-driven number with British Invasion overtones in the chorus and "Pie In The Sky" is surf rock on speed, a fun album closer if there ever was one.

Pixies and punk fans may miss some of the aggression, but they will recognize Black's songwriting and latent humor, and besides, he doesn't care if you like it. He had too much fun making it. As with most double albums, there are some songs that just don't stack up, but nor are there any outright bad songs here either. In a way, Teenager Of The Year feels like Black's White Album – too many songs, too many genres, a sense of fun and a glorious, ambitious sweep that somehow ties it together. Yes, it may not have a long-lasting impact, but it's a blast while it plays.

Rating: B

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