Frank Black

The Cult of Ray

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Frank Black has never had a problem with being weird. He practically pioneered mixing bizarre lyrics about science fiction, sex and religion with loud guitars when he led the Pixies to the outer limits of pop music in the '80s. So maybe it's in keeping that The Cult of Ray, his third solo album since the Pixies' implosion in 1993, is his weirdest yet. It's truly a strange record for Black -- it flirts with the ordinary, something he's never had a relationship with before. While there's still flashes of Black's normal eccentricity on songs like "The Marsist," "Men In Black" and "The Creature Crawling," for the most part The Cult of Ray is subdued and stripped-down where previous solo albums like Frank Black and Teenager of the Year sound liberated in their wide-band weirdness. There's three songs about moshing, of all things, on The Cult of Ray: "Mosh, Don't Pass the Guy," "Dance War" and "Kicked in the Taco," all of which have the same tired-sounding chugging punk guitars that lesser artists have made their bread and butter for years. And, oddly enough, there's an honest-to-goodness, straightforward love song called "I Don't Want To Hurt You (Every Single Time)" which sounds watered-down and forced compared to some of the unique and personal love songs he's created over the years with the Pixies and on his own. While The Cult of Ray certainly isn't a disaster of an album, it's certainly a disappointment. Black's die-hard fans might be confused with his new direction, and it's easy to see why: Black himself seems confused with which way to go with this album. More of a progression than a regression, The Cult of Ray begs for some of Black's good old regular freakiness.

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