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Black Francis

Idioma disponível: inglês
Whether performing with Pixies or on his own, as Black Francis or Frank Black, Charles Thompson re-frames rock & roll's past in imaginative ways. On albums such as 1988's Surfer Rosa and 1989's Doolittle, Pixies melded punk and indie guitar rock, classic pop, surf rock, and stadium-sized riffs with fragmented lyrics about space, religion, sex, mutilation, and pop culture, laying the groundwork for the alternative explosion of the early '90s in the process. During his solo years as Frank Black, his music ranged from 1993's eclectic and polished self-titled debut to the back-to-basics garage rock of 1998's Frank Black & the Catholics to the rootsy sounds of 2005's Honeycomb. By the late 2000s, he was back to Black Francis and balancing the raw rock of 2007's Bluefinger with projects like 2010's soundtrack to The Golem and 2011's down-to-earth Paley & Francis. When Pixies resumed recording in the mid-2010s, Francis and company continued the sound of their groundbreaking early work with albums like 2019's Beneath the Eyrie. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Charles Thompson moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a baby. When he was 12, his mother and stepfather joined an evangelical church, and Thompson attended Bible camp and discovered the music of Christian singer/songwriter Larry Norman, experiences that informed the songs he wrote for Pixies years later. Around this time, he began to play guitar and listen to '60s folk and pop artists along with religious music. His family returned to Massachusetts before his senior year of high school, and Thompson started writing songs in earnest. Following graduation, Thompson studied anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It was there that he met future Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, who became his roommate and introduced him to punk rock and the music of David Bowie. Halfway through his studies, Thompson went to Puerto Rico to study Spanish, and after six months he decided to move back to the U.S. to form a band. He dropped out of school and moved to Boston, persuading Santiago to join him. They formed Pixies in January 1986 and recruited Kim Deal after advertising in a music paper for a bassist who liked "Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul and Mary." On the advice of Deal, the group brought in drummer David Lovering. Thompson picked the stage name Black Francis and the group named itself Pixies after Santiago randomly flipped through the dictionary. Pixies signed to 4AD records soon after recording a demo dubbed The Purple Tape in March 1987, and released their debut mini-album Come on Pilgrim on the label that September. It reached number five on the U.K. Indie Albums chart, heralding the acclaim the band would earn for their first full-length, March 1988's Surfer Rosa. Produced by Steve Albini, it became a college radio hit in America (and was ultimately certified gold by the RIAA in 2005) and earned enthusiastic reviews from the weekly music press in the U.K. Pixies' major-label debut, April 1989's Doolittle, propelled them to greater success: "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Here Comes Your Man" became Top Ten modern rock hits, clearing the way for Doolittle to peak at number 98 on the U.S. charts; meanwhile, it hit number eight on the U.K. Album Chart. Following the tour in support of the album, Pixies took a break, during which Francis went on a brief solo tour. Pixies' status continued to grow with the release of August 1990's surf-tinged Bossanova, and the band reconvened in early 1991 to make their fourth album, that October's Trompe le Monde, with producer Gil Norton. During the sessions, Francis discussed making a solo album with Norton. The project was originally intended to be a set of covers, but by the time Francis, Norton, and Pere Ubu's Eric Drew Feldman (who also worked on Trompe le Monde) were able to return to the studio in 1992, Francis had enough ideas to record an album of mostly original songs. As he was preparing to release the album in January 1993, he gave an interview on BBC's Radio 5, announcing that Pixies were disbanding. Inverting his stage name to Frank Black, he released his eponymous debut that March. An adventurous sketchbook of pop styles spanning surf rock, heavy metal, Beatlesque pop and new wave, Frank Black spawned the singles "Hang On to Your Ego" and "Los Angeles" and reached number nine on the U.K. Albums chart. In 1994, Black appeared on former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke's debut album, Pawnshop Guitars, and returned with his second album, Teenager of the Year, that May. Named for an actual award he received, it was a sprawling and diverse album that amplified all the best points of Frank Black. Hitting number 21 on the U.K. Albums chart and number two on the Heatseekers chart in the U.S., it received favorable reviews and had an alternative radio hit with "Headache." Despite this, Black parted ways with Elektra and 4AD in early 1995, signing a new record contract with American in the U.S. and Sony in Europe. That year, he performed on Mike Watt's solo album Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and issued the single "Men in Black," which became a Top 40 hit in the U.K. The song appeared on his first album for American and Sony, January 1996's The Cult of Ray. Named for sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, it was Black's first self-produced album and boasted a stripped-down, hard-rocking sound. That year, he also contributed the song "Man of Steel" to the compilation Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files. When American closed briefly in early 1997 to straighten out its financial problems, Black was lost in the shuffle. He continued to record with the band that backed him on Cult of Ray (guitarist Lyle Workman, bassist David McCaffrey, and drummer Scott Boutier), dubbing them Frank Black and the Catholics. After signing with Play It Again Sam in England, the label issued May 1998's self-titled debut album, which consisted of garage-y songs recorded live to two-track (SpinART released the album in the U.S. later that year). Also in 1998, Black appeared on the James Brown tribute album James Brown Super Bad @ 65: A James Brown Tribute. Frank Black and the Catholics continued their gritty, minimalist approach with March 1999's Pistolero, which was released by What Are Records? Oddballs, a collection of B-sides from the Teenager of the Year and Cult of Ray era, arrived in 2000, while Black wrote the song "Pray for the Girls" for Heroes & Villains: Music Inspired by The Powerpuff Girls as well as music for the soundtrack to the film Crime & Punishment in Suburbia. For January 2001's Dog in the Sand, Santiago and Feldman joined Frank Black and the Catholics on a more eclectic set of songs that added a rootsy touch to the band's sound. In August 2002, Black issued a pair of albums, the ambitious Black Letter Days and The Devil's Workshop, a more laid-back effort. Show Me Your Tears, which was inspired by Black's therapy sessions, followed a year later. That year, he also contributed to Wig in a Box, a benefit album for the Hetrick-Martin Institute that featured covers of the songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In 2004, Black returned to prominence when Pixies reunited for U.S. tours, an appearance at that year's Coachella Festival, and gigs in Europe and the U.K., including performances at the T in the Park, Roskilde, Pinkpop, and V Festivals. The band also released two songs, "Bam Thwok" and a cover of Warren Zevon's "Ain't That Pretty at All." Frank Black Francis, a double-disc set of early Pixies demos and reinterpretations of Pixies songs by Black and the Two Pale Boys, arrived that October. As Pixies' reunion tour continued into 2005, in July Black released Honeycomb, a collection of songs recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, featuring performances by session greats such as Spooner Oldham, Reggie Young, Anton Fig, and Steve Cropper that reached number 11 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart. He reunited with this crew and added a host of other guest stars for June 2006's sprawling double-album Fast Man Raider Man, which he supported with a string of dates opening for Foo Fighters. Black rounded out the year with a cover of "Road Movie to Berlin" for Hello Radio: The Songs of They Might Be Giants and that December's Christmass, a collection of unreleased studio tracks and live performances. With the ferocious rock of September 2007's Bluefinger, a concept album about the life and death of Dutch painter/punk rocker Herman Brood, Black returned to the Black Francis name. The following year, he returned with The Seus EP and the mini-album SVN FNGRS, a set of songs inspired by the Irish legend of Cúchulainn. Also in 2008, Francis produced Art Brut's album Art Brut vs. Satan and formed the project Grand Duchy with his wife Violet Clark. The duo's debut album, Petit Fours, arrived in April 2009. The following March, Francis issued the sexually charged NonStopErotik; that year also saw the release of a five-disc, limited-edition version of his music for the 1920 silent horror movie The Golem, directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener. A single-disc version of The Golem followed in March 2011, the same month that the B-sides collection Abbabubba appeared. Paley & Francis, a collaboration with longtime friend Reid Paley with contributions from Muscle Shoals aces Oldham and David Hood, arrived in October. Last but not least, Francis performed the Kinks' "This Is Where I Belong" on Ray Davies' 2011 collaborative album See My Friends. A pair of live albums, Live at the Melkweg and Live in Nijmegen, were released by Bureau B Records in 2012. In 2013, Francis brought his solo career to an end when Pixies returned to the studio with longtime producer Gil Norton. Though Deal left the band during the sessions (former Fall bassist Simon Archer, aka Dingo, replaced her in the studio; Kim Shattuck and later Paz Lenchantin took over live duties), April 2014's Indie Cindy became the band's highest-charting album in the U.S. to date. For the rest of the decade, Francis balanced touring and recording with Pixies and archival releases from his solo career. In 2015, Frank Black and the Catholics: The Complete Recordings arrived, while Pixies' sixth album, Head Carrier -- the first to feature Lenchantin as a full-fledged member -- came out in September 2016. Its single "Classic Masher" debuted on the Adult Alternative Songs chart at number 30, marking the band's first appearance on a Billboard airplay chart since 1992. After the release of June 2019's Beneath the Eyrie and its deluxe edition in 2020, Francis' solo career retrospective, 07-11, was released in November 2021; it collected remastered versions of his releases from the late 2000s and early 2010s.
© Heather Phares & Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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