Grand Duchy, Let the People Speak – Grand Duchy is a project that Black Francis had with his wife Violet Clark. I guess you could say it’s sort of like Mono Puff, the side project by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, in that his spouse is regularly involved and it has more of a funky sound than is typical for the artist. And remember that Mono Puff did cover a Frank Black song, “Oddball.” His stuff usually takes a little while to grow on me, and such might be the case for this album as well. It’s long, and there’s a lot to digest. As of my first few listens, I like “Shady” and “Where Is John Frum?”, the latter being about the cargo cults. One interesting thing about the record is that a disc jockey called Jonathan L does often entertaining commentary on every song. This looks like it will probably be the last Grand Duchy album, as Frank and Violet having a band together was apparently too much work, but hopefully it’s not the end of collaboration between the two. Remember that Violet also sang backing vocals on the album Bluefinger.
Young Fresh Fellows, Tiempo de Lujo – While the Fellows, led by Scott McCaughey, are no longer a regularly performing band, they’ll still occasionally get together to record some songs. Their sound is pretty much what you might expect from the name, mostly fun and casual rock songs with a wide variety of subject matter and a clear appreciation for their influences. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of work put into their music, as it can sometimes be rather difficult to sound so casual, but the general effect is of some guys getting together, having a few beers, and playing some music. This album is a fun and catchy collection of songs, covering everything from drummer Tad Hutchison’s living space to the inevitability of death. I particularly like the hippie-esque number “Love Luggage,” but perhaps the most interesting to me is “Cleflo and Zizmor,” about two doctors who advertise on the New York City subway. I’ve seen ads for Dr. Zizmor before, and my wife told me that John Linnell of TMBG once commented on one of them himself. I definitely recommend this one, but then, I recommend all of their work. They’re much more obscure than they should be.
And because I’ve mentioned TMBG so much already, I might as well bring up the fact that they have an album slated for release next year, with the controversial title Nanobots. Why is that so controversial? I don’t know, but I saw some people on Facebook mentioning that they hated it. Anyway, one of the songs, “Call You Mom” is available for listening online. I have a feeling this won’t be one of the stand-out tracks on the album, but it’s pretty good.