Anyone hoping Frank Black would revisit the quirky frenzy of the Pixies or the power-pop of his solo debut, Teenager of the Year, will be nonplussed by his rootsy Honeycomb. But Black isn't going altcountry on us, even though this set was recorded in Nashville with Buddy Miller (from Emmylou Harris' band) and legendary R&B guitarist Steve Cropper. Honeycomb is seasoned with the country rock and mellow Southern soul of the late 1960s and early '70s, though it never feels "retro" or nostalgic -- Black adapts those genres to his own approach, not the other way around. He's retired (for now) his trademark yelp, singing in a subdued, plain-spoken style (à la Neil Young, Johnny Cash) that contains more than a touch of world-weariness (reflecting, perhaps, the recent dissolution of his marriage). Black's lyrics are his usual mix of the abstract and the angst-ridden, as in the sarcasm-and-pun-laced "Song of the Shrimp" and lines like "I let snow fall on frozen yesterday/ I burn today," sung resignedly to an undulating folk-rock melody. The bittersweet Honeycomb is Black's testament to a head-on confrontation with adulthood.
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