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Teenager of the Year

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Album Review

A sprawling double album, Frank Black's Teenager of the Year builds on the clever, carefully crafted pop he forged on his solo debut and moves even farther away from the Pixies' sound. It feels like the album Black wanted to make since Bossanova: "Whatever Happened to Pong?" and "Thalassocracy" are a one-two blast of energetic fun, but the tight songwriting and detailed arrangements on the strummy "Headache" and gentle, piano-driven "Sir Rockaby" are more interesting. Despite its 22-song length, most of Teenager of the Year's tracks are keepers; the first nine rank among Black's catchiest songs with or without the Pixies. "I Want to Live on an Abstract Plain" and "The Vanishing Spies" mix sweet straightforward melodies with spacy keyboards, and Black delivers a creative love song in "Speedy Marie"; the first letter of each line in the song's second half spells out his girlfriend's name. The driving, anthemic "Freedom Rock" is one of the album's more ambitious tracks, along with the catchy, educational "Ole Mulholland," a musical history lesson about William Mulholland, the developer and planner of Los Angeles' municipal water system. Teenager's beginning is so consistent, it's not surprising that its second half isn't quite as essential, but it's still interesting. The spacy, ska-tinged "Fiddle Riddle," the cryptic "Superabound," and the sprightly final track "Pie in the Sky" — which sounds strangely like a punk version of Gary U.S. Bonds' hit "A Quarter to Three" — all add to the album's individuality. Even less-developed songs like "Fazer Eyes" and "The Hostest with the Mostest" are still worthwhile. Though his later albums took a sparer, simpler approach, Teenager of the Year's ambition and quirkiness begin Black's evolution into a cult artist who makes the music he wants to, regardless of whether or not it's fashionable.

Customer Reviews

Frank's Best Solo Album

I'd argue this was his best. Marking a less rock-based attitude to his sound, Frank still manages to start the album with two head-shaking stompers. How can an album that begins with a rock-out asking 'whatever happened to pong?' not be a classic. Further tracks, on the whole, seem less leftfield than Pixies stuff, but Frank does mellow as well as he does manic. If you liked the Pixies, it's worth getting. If you didn't, it's still worth getting.

best frank black by miles

this is the best frank black album by light years. i can listen to it forever. i can always listen to it, sometimes for days on end. essential. as a result ive bought everything else hes ever done and sadly hes never got near to touching this. bummer.

Trust the pixie

What a bonus-a man whose talent is so evident that this album would easily stand up to scrutiny had Frank Black never been the man in the Pixies. Well well well; I think Graham Coxon took a page out of his book and realised that there is life after the big band. This album is a stormer! Songs like 'headache' show sheer joyful songwriting rock and roll craftsmanship at its very best. The rest show all kinds of entertainining twists and turns that make this album less predictable and less bi-polar than the pixies but also (and ironically) more consistent and less track skippable! I don't really think it is more mellow, it's more like Frank has had a few jams with Bob Mould and Ryan Adams then written an album while in the post - mutual appreciation haze. Great stuff.


Born: 06 April 1965 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Inverting his stage name from Black Francis to Frank Black, the former Pixies lead singer/songwriter embarked on a solo career after he broke up the band in early 1993; actually, he began recording his solo album before he told the band the news. Working with former Pere Ubu member Eric Drew Feldman, Black occasionally heads into the ferocious post-punk guitar territory that marked such landmark albums as Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, but more frequently he plays up his considerably underrated melodic...
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