Black Francis

REVIEW: Jeremy Dubs - The Words

Musically, Jeremy Dubs’ second album, The Words, doesn’t stray far from the formula that made his debut, Speak!, such a wonderful, mind-bending chunk of prog rock. The sparse, electronic soundscapes are still there on his sophomore effort for The Bureau Records (Black Francis’ Western Massachusetts-based label), as is his truly unique somewhere-between-Frank-Oz-and-Geddy-Lee-voice.

The key difference is the lack of reliance on Harry Nilsson. Whereas Speak! served as a back-and-forth conversation between Dubs and Nilsson, covering several of his songs and adding a few originals that cited Nilsson as an inspiration, Dubs wrote more than half of the songs on the new album. But fear not – Dubs adds two more fantastic Nilsson covers to the new record. First up is Sailin’, in which Dubs harmonizes perfectly first with himself, then with vocalist/cellist Vanessa Zaehring. The song floats along beautifully on a sparse electronic background before ending on a bit of a chaotic note, implying the sailing is not as smooth as the song would imply. The other Nilsson cover, “Point of View Waltz,” might be more familiar to folks of a certain age who remember the surreal, Yellow Submarine-esque 1971 film The Point. Dubs, who normally tones down Nilsson’s songs, instead adds some drums to the short tune, making it the peppiest song on the record. (The lack of drums on the record is somewhat surprising, given Dubs’ occasional turn as Black Francis’ drummer.)

Dubs covers three more songs on The Words. The first is “Love in Outer Space,” originally done by Sun Ra. (Let’s hope Dubs doesn’t try to cover as much Sun Ra as he has Harry Nilsson – Sun Ra recorded more than 100 albums in his astonishingly prolific career). Dubs adds his trademark Realistic Concertmate synth but stays relatively true to the jazzy original.  (It’s also easy to see the influence that the artwork of Sun Ra’s record had on Dubs’.) Dubs then takes on Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “New World Coming” – not the duo’s best known song (that would be – by far - “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling) but a great one in the right hands. Dubs strips the song down about as much as possible, using a simple, plinking keyboard and sleigh bell, but lays on numerous overdubbed vocals which shimmer radiantly.

Daily Listen: Paley & Francis: "Crescent Moon"

Take a pinch of Pixies, a little Tom Waits, and add a dash Muscle Shoals goodness, mix it up real good and what you'd end up with is the new record from Reid Paley and Black Francis (aka. Frank Black of Pixies fame). 

Stripped down and off the cuff, these recordings came about over the course of a week or two, and it shows. But in that raggedness is a charm that endears the listener to the material in a way that very few records can. These songs could have been written in your living room, if only you knew Frank Black. At least those are my thoughts.

Here's what THEY have to say about it:

"We wrote the music for the songs in Paley’s apartment in Brooklyn over three afternoons when Francis was in New York for a three day run at Joe’s Pub. After which we each took half of the songs to finish off with lyrics, and Francis went off to meet what he sometimes likes to call “the old band” for another tour.
A few days later, we were recording at Jon Tiven’s studio in Nashville. We each sang lead on the songs we wrote lyrics for and sang backup on the others. We worked fast. Francis had Pixies shows each evening, so we had a curfew. Paley recalls finishing the lyrics to one tune literally a minute before cutting the vocal. The two of us on guitars, with legendary Muscle Shoals players David Hood on bass and Spooner Oldham on piano. Damn, those guys are good. Hope you dig the vibe.“

Sounds great right? Unfortunately you'll have to wait until October to experience the results in full. In the meantime though, we've got your first tast of this project right here for you right here, right now. This is one of the quieter numbers on the record, but it should still give you a pretty good idea of what's in store. 

Paley & Francis - "Crescent Moon" 

Paley & Francis will be released into the world by Sonic Onyon on October 11th.