Tag Archives: Bright Eyes

Black Francis

I like people who get excited about things. Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson, a.k.a. former frontman of The Pixies) gets passionately obsessed about weird things like fringe Dutch musicians. To paraphrase, “Is he weird, is he white, is he promised to the night?” Yes? Bonus.

In the last year Black Francis has released two EPs/short LPs, Bluefinger and SVN FNGRS. I was never a big fan of the Frank Black (and the Catholics) solo stuff, but these new discs more than deserve the old moniker. They rock like nothing I’ve heard of his since The Pixies, and the live show was impeccable.

Bluefinger is a theme album, based on or at least inspired by the drug-crazed life and times of Herman Brood. The disc contains a cover of You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It (by Herman Brood and His Wild Romance), in which you can hear coked-up pounding anguish that makes it such a good song for Black Francis. You can hear how it would influence him. Sort of like, if you listen real hard to Nirvana, it makes so much sense that Kurt Cobain‘s first band was a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

Listen to Threshold Apprehension from Bluefinger and When They Come to Murder Me from SVN FNGRS on his MySpace, but know neither song is as intense as the overall vibe of the discs.

But if I had to choose, I’d pick SVN FNGRS (vowels are so uncool) for sure. The incisively short songs vamp (or is it harp?) on those good ol’ bloody themes: birth, sex, battle, death. Watch the video for the song I Sent Away. The album’s title comes from the seven-fingered-and-toed Cúchulainn, a mythological hero from Irish folklore “known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.” Sounds like the transformation that occurs when pasty, bald (and blue suede shod) Charles Thompson rips into a two-minute song as Black Francis.

I saw Black Francis with a bass player and drummer perform almost every song from both discs at The Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska. The jukebox, the beers, the size (capacity 470!), the jaw-dropping bookings, the overall aesthetic … everything’s perfect in that bar/venue. And Charles commented more than once on how great the club is for performers.

The Slowdown’s excellence comes from the fact that it was created by owner/operators who are musicians themselves–folks from Omaha’s own Saddle Creek Records (Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Cursive, et al.).

I highly recommend The Slowdown … and so do others. It was named Esquire’s Club of the Year.

Getting back to the obsessions of Black Francis. He has recorded songs to accompany the 1915 film Der Golem, which I think will be released as another album soon. This is the third film I know him to sing about, joining the ranks of Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou.

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Body of War Soundtrack: Eddie Vedder, et al.

You can watch the video for the Eddie Vedder original song “No More” that is featured in the soundtrack Body of War: Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran. The film itself is in some art house theaters now, and more to come.

Eddie talks about his reasons for becoming involved in the project here. Man, his solo stuff is excellent. But he’s just one of many artists; see the track list below.

Buy (and listen to clips from) the double album. It’s thematic, not musically cohesive. But that’s not an insurmountable hurdle and is to be expected from an anti-war album. In related news, check these 70 free downloadable protest songs.

The cover art for the album is by the once-again-newsworthy (for his sold-out trilogy of Obama posters: Progress, Hope, and Change) Obey/Andre the Giant artist Shepard Fairey.

Disc one:

1 Brendan James – Hero’s Song
2 Lupe Fiasco -American Terrorist
3 Michael Franti & Spearhead – Light Up Ya Lighter
4 Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio
5 Public Enemy – Son of a Bush
6 Serj Tankian – Empty Walls
7 Bad Religion – Let Them Eat War
8 Against Me! – White People for Peace
9 Bouncing Souls – Letter From Iraq
10 Dilated Peoples – War
11 RX Bandits – Overcome (The Recapitulation)
12 No Use for a Name – Fields of Agony
13 Talib Kweli & Cornel West – Bushonomics
14 Immortal Technique – The 4th Branch
15 System of a Down – B.Y.O.B.
16 Eddie Vedder & Ben Harper – No More (live)

Disc two:

1 Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust
2 Pearl Jam – Masters of War (live)
3 Bright Eyes – When the President Talks to God
4 John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth
5 Neil Young – The Restless Consumer
6 The Nightwatchman – Battle Hymns
7 Kimya Dawson – Anthrax
8 Blow Up Hollywood – WMD
9 David Ford – State of the Union
10 Tori Amos – Yo George
11 Laura Cantrell – Love Vigilantes
12 Ben Harper – Black Rain
13 Roger Waters – To Kill the Child
14 Tom Waits – Day After Tomorrow

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Filed under Music Videos, New, Soundtrack

Music in Presidential Politics

Obama and the Clintons have each won Grammys for reading their books.

Bill Clinton played sax. Mike Huckabee played bass guitar, with “his band” Capitol Offense, pissing Boston‘s Tom Scholz off when More Than A Feeling signals implicit endorsement.

There is interest to be found in the ramp-up and walk-off music at rallies, as in this great Daily Kos piece, as well as in the artists that perform at the rallies in unlikely small towns in rural America (e.g., I saw Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes do a lame set before a rally in Iowa, and, no, he didn’t play When the President Talks to God (jeez he’s trying to look like Jack White in that vid), but you can download the song for free from his label here).

will.i.am (of Black Eyed Peas fame) made two celebrity-riddled videos mashing up Obama speeches and chants with sung speech lines and heartfelt appeals: the most recent, We Are the Ones, and the first one, Yes, We Can. The alignment with Sí, Se Puede is intense (and I think they should have highlighted it better in the video, though of course Pat Buchanan is disgusted).

More direct than the Cesar Chavez reference made by Latino movie stars, Barack and Hillary each have a Spanish-language song. Listen to hers here; watch his here. Thanks for the tip, VSL.

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Filed under Covers, Politics