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Pop Music Reviews

Frank Black Hollers, Screeches and Pleases

November 07, 1998

Both during and since his tenure with the Pixies, Frank Black's performances have been revved-up, yowling and barking attempts to break out of ordinary life into some special realm of release.

It was a surprise then to hear Black open his show Thursday for a half-capacity, but adoring, crowd at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano with a controlled baritone croon on a slowed-down version of the Pixies' nugget "Wave of Mutilation." Was Black about to reveal a matured new tack as a real singer, like his fellow '80s alterna-rock eminence, Paul Westerberg?

Not really. As his set progressed, there was barking and yowling aplenty. Black, who looked like Billy Corgan gone to seed with his shaved head and a dark suit draping his ample girth, was not always inspired as he and his three-man band pounded through the performance looking for liftoff.

But the peaks were very high, especially the unreleased "I Switched You," a dark, blues- and rockabilly-tinged number, and "Sister Isabelle," the sumptuously melodramatic Del Shannon-penned obscurity that closed the set as Black hollered with the urgency of vintage Eric Burdon, causing the audience to go nuts. Liftoff achieved.--Mike Boehm

* Frank Black & the Catholics play tonight at the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 8 p.m. $13.50. (310) 276-6168.

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