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Frank Black and the Catholics 

Dog in the Sand (What Are)

Despite the dissolution of the Pixies 10 years ago, former frontman Frank Black (a.k.a. Black Francis) is still creating albums with his own brand of surf-punk sounds and indie rock. Dog in the Sand features Black teamed up with his Catholic cohorts for a third time, and PJ Harvey pianist (and former Pere Ubu keyboardist) Eric Drew Feldman and ex-Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago also help out on the album, which was recorded in just 10 days. But Pixies devotees, salivating at the thought of the two founders reuniting to create a little more magic, should be warned that, while the pairing of Santiago and Black may look good on paper, the results aren't as promising.

Dog never manages to attain that beguiling buzz that Black and the Catholics captured on their first two albums. "The Swimmer," "I've Seen Your Picture," and "Stupid Me" all have the resonance and distinction of Black's unique sound, but the results are humdrum and unvaried. Even the tracks on which Santiago contributes -- "Blast Off," "Robert Onion," and "Dog in the Sand" -- teeter on mediocrity. The reverb and crash typical of Santiago's unrivaled guitar playing never surfaces with much intensity. Songs such as "Bullet" and "Llano del Rio" sound like Pixies B-sides: "Bullet" explodes with the patented odd chord progression and howling lead guitar, and "Llano del Rio" features Black rasping in Spanish while Dave Phillips, not Santiago, wrestles with the six-string. But they're the only bright spots on an otherwise dim album. Ultimately, Dog is a middling effort at banking on the Pixies' mystique; fans are better off digging out their copy of Doolittle than relying on Dog for their Pixies fix.

More by Keith Gribbins


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