Whatever you may have felt about the Pixies reunion, the return of Black Francis is a comely salve. Frank Black's alter ego makes his solo debut — "because I couldn't get the Pixies into the studio," he sneers in his press clips — and delivers the best Pixies album since Doolittle ... at least in tone, if not lineup.

The opening two tracks signal what kind of party it's gonna be, the jagged stabs of guitar punctuating Black's paranoid screech. "Captain Pasty" is set in a futuristic war (with Martians, natch!) where the character feels "lucky to be alive," and its buzzing companion, "Threshold Apprehension," finds him offering to be "the whore," accepting life's simple cycle: "Talk to the man just to get a little work/then you talk to the hand just to get a little jerk/Some people die, then they start to get old."

The songs all reference or are loosely connected to the late Dutch rock 'n' roller Herman Brood, who was "punkier than punk, a slave to rock 'n 'roll and a slave to junk," Black sings on album centerpiece, "Angels Come to Comfort You." The acoustic jangle and clean vocal style suggests Black's last solo album and is a welcome addition. Other highlights are the decadent Dolls-ed up glam of "Tight Black Rubber" and his slashing Lou Reed-biting rave, "You Can't Break a Heart and Have It." In exploring the rock spirit, Black reveals his still beats strong.

Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to