It's been more than a decade since the Pixies titillated suburban teens with the Buñuelian horror-show ditty "Debaser" ("Slicin' up eyeballs / Ha ha ha ho" — Marilyn Manson, eat your heart out ... please). But the Pixies were about a hell of a lot more than morbid thrills; they were one of the '80s most musically influential bands, inspiring countless imitators to do the "play quiet for a verse, lull you into a melodic trance, then EXPLODE INTO HEAVY GUITAR RIFFS" thing. Their blend of noise and melody was peculiar, and combined with the cryptic sleeve imagery of 4AD's graphics whiz Vaughan Oliver, lent the band mystique.

After they broke up, Kim Deal forged into the mainstream with the Breeders, and Black Francis made two pretty well-received records under the moniker Frank Black; occupying the spotlight all by his lonesome, he proved far quirkier than the Pixies, with a big pop sensibility that updated everyone from Dick Dale to Brian Wilson. Black defined "alternative" in a way that the Flannel Nation of Seattle couldn't hope to.

Then he fell off the radar, making a few discs that were doomed by record label politics and an all-too-fickle media. We all understood what happened to Kim Deal's career ("Officer, I thought that was baking soda!"), but Black's disappearance was more mysterious. The truth is, he never really disappeared: his records simply weren't being displayed prominently in your local corporate record store. His latest, Dog in the Sand (on indie label What Are Records?), showed up on a handful of Top 10 critics' lists last year, and Black is still held in high enough esteem overseas to merit inclusion on a list of 100 rock heroes in Mojo, the Holy Grail of music magazines.

The upside of his fame's downturn is that San Antonians can catch Frank Black in the intimate setting of the White Rabbit. Catch him now before the pop zeitgeist embraces rock again, and Black is back in stadiums.

Frank Black and the Catholics
with Matthew, Cinderleaf
Friday, April 19
$8 (day of show only)
White Rabbit
2410 N. St. Mary's

More by John DeFore



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