Frank Black's influences are varied and scrambled

March 07, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Influence is a funny thing. Spend some time with Frank Black's new album, "The Cult of Ray," and it's easy to hear echoes of the Beach Boys in the music. It's not as if Black is trying to duplicate the close-harmony surf rock sound that powered the Beach Boys' biggest hits, but the songs "The Last Stand of Shazeb Andleeb" and the bittersweet "I Don't Want To Hurt You (Every Single Time)" definitely owe a debt to the meticulous craft and melodic invention that marked Brian Wilson's mid-'60s work with the band.

But even Black would have a hard time saying just what that debt is.

"I suppose I have been [influenced]," he says, over the phone from a tour stop in Gainesville, Fla., "but in a much more indirect way than you might imagine. I certainly have heard them my whole life, but I guess because Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys have such a fanatical following, I always feel a little guilty saying, 'Yeah, I'm a Beach Boys fan.' Because I know there's this whole group of other people out there that are just total nuts for the Beach Boys, and I'm not in that category.

"So I'm sure they've been an influence. But I couldn't tell you, 'Yeah, by the way, I have been listening to only the Beach Boys for the past three years,' or anything like that."

Even when he was fronting the Pixies as Black Francis (his real name is Charles Thompson), he was never one to absorb music history in chronological order.

"I tend to listen to music backwards," he says. "There's probably a lot more punk influence on my records now than there was in the early Pixies days, when [my sound] was not really too solidly connected to too many records. I wasn't listening to any classic punk at that time; I was listening to post-punk -- you know, like Husker Du or the Replacements."

How'd he get that way? Blame it on the '60s -- or, rather, '60s music. Black was born in 1965 and says rock and roll has been part of his consciousness from when he was a little kid.

"I really feel like the part of my brain that was stimulated by rock music happened at a pretty young age," he says. "So my connection with this mystery of music goes way, way back. Way before puberty, or rebelling against your parents -- the kind of things that are so often associated with rock and roll."

So instead of using rock as a form of rebellion, he took its rebelliousness as a sort of cultural norm. "I guess the first big examples of rock music that I heard, be it Bob Dylan or the Beatles, was kind of psychedelic and kind of free form," he says. "Kind of poetic. That was my example, and so I've never tried to be straight-down-the-middle.

"I'm a fan of all different kinds of records," he adds. "I mean, there are just so many things to like and enjoy, and I always incorporate some of what I hear. So it's always been a totally fun kind of thing. Exciting, and certainly mysterious. It's what I do, and I'm so glad to be doing it."

Frank Black

When: Tuesday, March 12, 8 p.m.

Where: Bohager's

Tickets: $12

Call: (410) 563-7220

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Frank Black's new release, "The Cult of Ray," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6144. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

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