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Classic Album Reviews: Frank Black and the Catholics | Black Letter Days / Devil’s Workshop

The Pixies frontman gets in on the double-disc action with these solid efforts.

This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


It’s only August, but I’m ready to nominate my pick for Music Trend of the Year: Releasing two albums at once.

Paul Westerberg and Tom Waits kicked off the fad earlier this year with their double-drops. This week, erstwhile Pixies leader Frank Black — aka The Artist Formerly Known as Black Francis — gets into the act with Black Letter Days and Devil’s Workshop. Both these albums find him once again delivering the strangely rootsy, darkly edgy fare — think Violent Femmes trying to sound like The Stooges covering The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St. — that has been the basis of his sound lately. Of the two, Black Letter Days, with its bookend covers of Waits’ Black Rider and its emphasis on slower, darker and more eclectic tracks like Cold Heart of Stone, Valentine and Garuda and How You Went so Far, feels like the more ambitious work. Devil’s Workshop, by contrast, is more upbeat and straightforwardly rocking, with Black and his band — including fellow ex-Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago and late-period Captain Beefheart sidemen Morris Tepper and Eric Drew Feldman — chugging through catchy, crunchy four -chord rockers about Elvis, Texas, women, whiskey and the freedom of the road. Neither one is his best album, but then again, neither is his worst either. And if you’re a Black fan, you’ll want them both anyhow — whether the idea behind them is trendy or not.