“Headache” is the catchiest song of Frank Black’s solo career thanks to the held and layered notes (“Creditttttttt”; “Headacheeeeeee”) and how the “got me down!”‘s nicely punctuate the preceding phrasing. The rest of this album is typical Frank Black chord progressions at a decently fast chug with lyrics that don’t mean anything to anyone not named Frank Black (sample lyric: “Here I am in my bucket today / In the middle”) sung without melody or without the visceral urgency that some melody-less Pixies songs got away with (ie. “Rock Music”). The rhymes in the song titles of “The Hostess with the Mostest” (???) and “Pure Denizen of the Citizens Band” is as much thought as he gives those songs, though he works up a nice riff in the latter’s conclusion, but chooses to do nothing with it except repeat it and throw a useless spoken word bit over top (compare that to the climax of “The Happening”); he throws some horns in “Space Is Gonna Do Me Good” but keeps cutting them off because that’s an easier solution than writing a full melody. Compare “Trompe le monde” (the song that opens the album with the same name) to “Whatever Happened to Pong?” to see just how far he’s fallen in three years: both have the exact same opening guitar line, except “Whatever Happened to Pong?” turns to meaningless drivel immediately after. Pitchfork ranked this ahead of Mezzanine and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… on their list of top albums of the 1990s.
To close, I’ll just defer to Robert Christgau: “[T]hough the Pixies had more slash and burn than any art band between Husker Du and Nirvana, Fran sorely needed the musicianship of Joey Santiago and, I like to think, the sweet humanizing gravity of Kim Deal. On his own he’s generated plenty of tune, plenty of ‘tude, yet seemed silly anyway.” Yup. In fact, that’s so on point that I might copy paste that at the end of every review I write for a Frank Black album.