Great Mac McCaughan Moments – Public Enemy

File this under great “did that just happen” moments.  Portastatic released a trio of great albums in the aught’s:

  • Summer of the Shark (2003)
  • Bright Ideas (2005)
  • Be Still Please (2006)

After Summer of the Shark set the standard for this new era of band-based Portastatic I was super excited for Bright Ideas, and it did not disappoint.

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Great Mac McCaughan Moments – The Perfect Little Door

Up until 2001 I was luke-warm on Portastatic.  I liked a lot of the songs but my heart belonged to the rockin’ and rollin’ of Superchunk and the lo-fi fiddling of Portastatic just did not click with my brain.  Had I been aware of the Superchunk drought we were about to embark upon I would have been even more excited, but the writeup of The Perfect Little Door actually had me quite stoked.

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Great Mac McCaughan Moments – Falsetto

I’m not going to walk through Superchunk’s album history again as I covered it in my 4-part series starting here, so I will summarize to say that their first 5 albums (plus 2 singles collections) were all manner of rockin’.

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Great Mac McCaughan Moments – Slack MFer

Mac McCaughan is very prolific.  Co-founder / front-man / chief songwriter for Superchunk.  Main dude for Portastatic.  Co-founder / owner of awesome Merge records.  Defender of independent music labels and makers.  Visual artist.  And more.

All of these things have resulted in a constant stream of output over multiple decades.  Mac’s passion and talent can hardly be contained in his smallish frame, perhaps fueling the on-stage fits of rock-spasm that has always been a signature of Superchunk live shows.  This list highlights a number of moments that made me sit up, smile and think “Who is this guy?  Is there no end to his coolness?”.  This will be a multi-part series so please follow me on twitter or sign up for email reminders to stay on top of future posts.

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Review: Black Francis – NonStopErotik

When Frank Black started recording again as Black Francis it was an exciting concept.  The Pixies had reunited for a few tours, and though rumours of a possible new album just continue to be rumours, work by  Black Francis seemed to be one step closer to that possibility.  NonStopErotik, however, feels nothing like the Pixies (not that it should).  If feels more like a singles collection.

Given how prolific Black is it is easy to match songs to the various styles of his past works.  Six Legged Man fits easily with Black Francis’ early solo stuff, like Cult of Ray.  Dead Man’s Curve would have fit perfectly on Dog in the Sand by Frank Black and the Catholics.  Wild Son is a well polished C-side to Pixies B-sides like Weird at My School or Dancing the Manta Ray.

There is an excess of falsetto going on in songs like Oh My Tidy Sum and Rabbits.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a falsetto hater.  Mac McCaughan (Superchunk, Portastatic) is one of my favourite artists.  But when Black sings entire songs in falsetto it just doesn’t feel authentic, but rather like he said “let’s do this one slow and high pitched, ’cause we haven’t done that yet on this album”.  Perhaps that feeling is informed by how fast and furiously Black tends to pump out the albums.

In contrast, Corrina‘s rockin’ pace drives Black’s voice up to a high pitch in a natural way that brings an enjoyable energy and life to the song.

Title track Nonstoperotik and When I Go Down on You are baffling tracks with overtly? sexual lyrics.  Lines like “I don’t need to have someone new when I go down on you” and “I want to be inside / that’s my intention / inside of you / all the way” stand out in all the wrong ways in songs that musically are more piano-driven love ballads than anything else.  I get that there are more to the lyrics than what is on the surface, but not being in on the winking I just can’t warm up to the songs.  I think these could have been tracks 13 and 14 on Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats.

Regardless of which post-Pixies moniker Black releases under, each new album is likely to have a couple of gems and a lot of non-standouts.  This is the curse of Black’s song writing style: there is a lot of quantity and within that there is some very high quality, but often the impact is diluted by the mediocrity of the rest of the songs.  Unfortunately NonStopErotik feels like a collection of throw-aways from other albums.  There are some decent tunes here, but nothing to add to the “best of” collection.