Frank Black / Frank Black and the Catholics

Show Me Your Tears

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Hearing that Frank Black's Show Me Your Tears is an angry record that was inspired by his work in therapy conjures up visions of pathetically self-absorbed diary rock along the lines of Can I Borrow a Feeling?, the album that The Simpsons' Kirk Van Houten wrote upon divorcing his wife, Louann. Fortunately, such worries are unfounded. While Show Me Your Tears is the most singer/songwriterly album of Black's solo career, it's also an engaging and often funny collection of songs that rivals his most recent creative peak, Dog in the Sand. In fact, this album might even be slightly better; while Dog in the Sand felt driven by its brilliant stylistic turns, Show Me Your Tears is compelling because of its emotional resonance. Musically, the album isn't much different than its predecessors: songs like "Everything Is New," "My Favorite Kiss," and "New House of the Pope" trade in the sunburned Western rock, confessional, countrified pop, and bluesy musing that have formed the foundation of Black's sound for the past four albums. However, they seem to have more substance and feeling invested in them, especially compared to Black Letter Days and Devil's Workshop, which now feel more like clearinghouses for Black's weaker ideas than ever. Though this is probably his most sincere album to date, thankfully Show Me Your Tears isn't about po-faced earnestness; in fact, its opening song, "Nadine," is bold and raunchy, with lyrics like "That girl got skin like a ghost" echoing the odd sexuality of the Pixies' "Is She Weird" 13 years later. Likewise, "The Snake" could be about being a low-down guy or Chinese astrology; "Massif Central" would be almost as bouncy, angular, and distant as his earlier solo work if not for Black's repeated entreaties of "please don't run away." Perhaps not surprisingly considering its origins, Show Me Your Tears is one of his most emotionally wide-ranging albums, spanning the sweetly self-effacing "Coastline," the slightly dangerous "This Old Heartache," and the good-natured "Jaina Blues." But the album's best songs express more than just one feeling; in much the same way that the Chinese character for crisis also means opportunity, on "Horrible Day" Black celebrates making friends with his worries about death, loneliness, and divorce, singing "For the first time in my life I just don't care" with a liberated glee. Far from being an angry album, Show Me Your Tears is filled with the kind of conscious joy that comes from working through your problems. If Frank Black had to do a confessional singer/songwriter album, it's unlikely he could've found a better way to do it.

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