FRANK BLACK Teenager Of The Year (4AD)

When the former Black Francis proclaimed The Pixies dead two years ago, the initial omens weren't good. His eponymous debut solo album did feature an ex-member of Captain Beefheart's final incarnation of the Magic Band (Eric Drew Feldman), but it also boasted a selection of lame songs, less produced than buried under fifteen coats of Mr Sheen. It was with some trepidation that I first listened to this 22-track double album follow up.

Fortunately, I needn't have worried. "Teenager Of The Year " actually has some life and spark about it (as well as Morris Tepper, another Magic Band refugee), and the songs are no longer slaves to the production. Black's subject matter remains as sci-fi fixated as ever, witness musings on the fate of the first video games ("Whatever Happened To Pong?") and CB radio ("Pure Denizens Of The Citizens Band"), with some surprisingly mellow and mature songs thrown in, such as "I Could Stay Here Forever" and "Headache", as well as my fave "Superabound", on which he moans "I'm bored of the valleys/I'm bored of the peaks". During the course of its 70+ minutes "Teenager Of The Year" has both valleys and peaks, and it's often good, sometimes infuriating, yet rarely boring. It would've made a stunning single album, but when isn't that the case? However, it won't make a dedicated Pixies fan forsake his or her cherished copies of "Surfer Rosa", "Doolittle" and "Trompe Le Monde".