The dust from the mid-2000s Pixies reunion has long since settled, but Black Francis/Frank Black/Charles Thompson keeps making records, deterred by neither nostalgia nor cash flow. This is mostly a good thing, as he recently proved with Grand Duchy, a dark, ‘80s-tinged project with his wife.NonStopErotik, however, while recorded with the charming, no-frills, one-take urgency of much of his late-‘90s work, pleasantly chugs along without gaining any real speed or traction.
Francis is joined by longtime collaborator Eric Drew Feldman, who laces tracks like the softer “O My Tidy Sum” and the floating “Rabbits” with a bed of ethereal keyboards that mark this is some of Francis’ lightest work of the past few years. “Wild Son” is a straight-up Doors rip-off, an interesting but distracting song that feels out of pace with the rest of the album. But he flips the script in an unexpected and welcome move by infusing the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels” with a driving rock beat and distorted guitars, making it more Ramones than lazy country rock. “Dead Man’s Curve” finds Francis releasing cathartic, throaty howls over a trad-rock chord progression, further showcasing his love affair with the roots of rock and roll and his faith in the ability of a couple of layered guitars a drum kit to move the crowd. That’s when the album reaches its simple peaks of pleasure, when it pogos minimally to power chords on songs like “Six Legged Man,” one of the best tunes on the record.
Still, taken in the context of his lengthy and mostly admirable catalogue,NonStopErotik doesn’t rank up there with Francis’ best. “When I Go Down On You” may tinker with the cryptic Freudian psychosexual drama he repeatedly dealt with in the Pixies, but the album’s visceral appeal lies in Stratocasters, not coitus. That being said, Black Francis running on half a tank still sounds better than most bands gunning at full throttle.