Type:Rider

0

Type:Rider is a game that aims to educate about the history of typography through worlds that are represented by different types of fonts. Each world is designed accordingly to the era the font was predominantly used in, always setting the mood while also providing some information on the type (for example, the Gothic font) as you unlock parts of the game.
Typography can be considered an art, and this game tries to display that. Just as paintings and music evolved throughout the years, typography has too, alongside every type of writing. It can still be clearly seen by the fact that we regularly encounter having to choose which font we want to use for something. Font can influence whether something is viewed professionally or just wants to be eye-catching, therefore even changing the intention of something written. We all have seen many types of font and even can recognize some by name at this point, but we probably don’t know of the background story to it, how long it has been around, what its exact purpose was, etc. That would probably facilitate the moment of choosing fonts, when we know that one isn’t just right, and we can’t exactly explain why, but we know when the style doesn’t click. Being comfortable with a font can help the process of writing, whether it’s in size or boldness, or trying to make yourself feel better by how little you’ve written by using a bigger one. Just as we try to learn about the different musical genres in order to become better musicians, or learning about the different art movements, maybe typography deserves a little more attention in order to experiment with writing more. Type:Rider is an educational, cultural, and interesting way to start to get familiar with these possibilities.

So That’s Black Francis

0

This is the concluding entry of that series of entries about Black Francis/Frank Black/Charles Thompson. I guess this is where I talk about how the ”experience” was for me. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, but I tend to exaggerate things at first like ”oh no how am I possibly going to do this” and then I realize I’m being silly and complicating matters. I thought I would eventually run out of things to write about Black Francis, or end up spewing facts like a Wikipedia article, but I underestimated my appreciation and decent amount of knowledge on the Pixies. Most of what I wrote came out pretty fluently after I decided on the subject I was going to focus on. By around the 4th day, I started thinking about getting to write about other bands, like The Damned. So I guess I enjoy writing about music. I would do it again. I would probably freak out a little at first again, but I would do it, and I would like it.

 

Introduction: Who is Black Francis? 

Day 1: Who is Black Francis? College, Puerto Rico, and Pixies 

Day 2: More on Pixies

Day 3: Black Francis/Frank Black  – Solo Work

Day 4: (500) Days of Black Francis 

Day 5: Black Francis and Side Projects 

Day 6: Black Francis and His Songwriting Style 

Day 7: You’ll Never Guess What He’s Searching For 

You’ll Never Guess What He’s Searching For

1

Do you remember the song that played at the end of Fight Club that seemed to be perfectly synchronized with everything crashing down? It was the most perfect song for a psychological thriller film, titled “Where Is My Mind?” and written by the Black Francis, the appropriately trippy musician for this.

Here is the scene:

“Where Is My Mind?” is track #2 on Surfer Rosa and can be considered the Pixies’ most popular song, all thanks to it being on the film’s soundtrack (but also because it’s a damn good song). It follows a 4-chord structure of E-C#m-G#-A that Black plays on acoustic guitar, with Kim Deal simply following along with just the bass notes (nothing fancy), Joey Santiago repeating a three note riff during the verse and occasionally following the same chords on electric guitar, and David Lovering following the same drum pattern the whole song through (making it sound pretty consistent).

Here is an instrumental cover:

For a song about losing your mind, it seems to follow more of a story than Black Francis’ usual nonsense. Jumping from a verse of spinning on your head, having your head collapse only to find your mind isn’t there, to a verse where the narrator is swimming in the Caribbean (elements from Black’s student exchange to Puerto Rico are present again) and thinks fish are talking to him. I guess the mind is what’s way out in the water, like the fish. It all starts to make sense, in a weird way. Maybe it’s just a really good description of literally losing your mind.

I often wonder whether Black Francis came to hate the song because of its popularity, like many artists tend to do with their big hit, but I was watching a documentary the other day and there was a scene where they showed him just sitting and singing it to himself. So maybe he hasn’t tired of it as much as I thought. I certainly never tire of this song.

Here is the full song:

 

 

(thanks to Desiree for suggesting the title of this post)

Black Francis and His Songwriting Style

1

“Eighty percent of it’s baloney, yeah… I write the songs by singing a whole bunch of syllables along with the chord progressions, and they become words. A bunch of five words might mean something, or stand for something. But the five words after it, or preceding it, sure as hell won’t have anything to do with them.”

That statement probably explains why his songs are so hard to figure out. Maybe they’re not meant to be figured out. You don’t try to theoretically explain why you enjoy every note of a song, so perhaps sometimes we should relax when interpreting lyrics and just listen to them. This is usually the best thing to do when listening to any of Black’s work, especially since a lot of the time you can’t even understand what’s saying, and he doesn’t tend to stick to just one conventional structure.

  ”It’s not like, ‘I have this sound in my head and I must get it out.’ It’s like, ‘Let’s go make some rock music.’ That’s how it is for me, and that’s how it is for most people I know.”

 

As for what he writes about, his subjects are said to range from surrealism to incest to even biblical topics (‘if the man is 5, then the devil is 6, and if the devil is 6, then God is 7”). Often he incorporates Puerto Rican phrases in stilted Spanish or Spanglish (ella me dijo que es una vida buena alla, bien rica bien chevere) and incorporates themes like going to the beach (”vamos a jugar por la playa”) because of his experiences in the Caribbean.

 

”I do my lyrics at the very, very last minute. I’m more into making music and coming up with poetic structure….The lyrics come after I make a big shape…I come up with the structure first….Music is mathematical and needs mathematical structure more than a topic. A topic will come. You take a bunch of words and put them all together, and you have a topic. [The song makes sense] because it comes from the same mind….It’s like a Dadaist approach, which is…just taking reality from many different places and throwing it together in the same pot….Like many songwriters when they’re young they start writing songs and they write a topical song which is usually a very bad song with many syllables and many words, and it’s not very entertaining. Rock n roll is all about “Tutti Frutti!” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow-Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow”—“Surfin’ Bird”…that’s a good rock n’ roll song.”

So you have the songs with a seemingly deep biblical meaning, and the songs are just completely surreal, and the songs that jump from one phrase that seems to tell a story to another that seems to have no correlation at all. And then you have something like this:

”I’ve got something against you
I’ve got something against you

Here we go

I’ve got something against you
I’ve got something against you

I’ve got something against you
I’ve got something against you

I’ve got something against you
Oh yeah, I am one happy prick”

(That’s it. Those are all the lyrics.)

 

 

In conclusion Black Francis’ songs may be atypical, idiosyncratic, and maybe don’t necessarily need to have one specific meaning, but they just work that way, and end up having a strange melodic flow that makes them easy on the ears, even if he screams them just as much as he sings them.

 

Black Francis and Side Projects

1

When it comes to blogging about Black Francis for a week, of course a lot of it is going to end up being about Pixies, as it’s  his first and most important musical project and what he’s worked on the longest as main songwriter. But today I’ll address other projects of his, to help people be familiarized with just how much work he’s done in music.

As if forming one band wasn’t enough, Black decided to start a new band in 1997 called Frank Black and the Catholics. The great thing about this was their live-to-two-track recordings that were left as is and ended up showing a great new sound for Black, though some critics thought it was too ”straightforward” for his usual style and ”disappointingly punk-pop.” But really, what’s so bad about punk-pop (or pop-punk)? Personally, I perceive these people as pretentious punk purists, and I think the record is pretty damn great. Black Francis was happy with it as well.

 

In 2011, he released a collaborative album with Reid Paley titled Paley & Francis. It is said they wrote the album together in three afternoons and recorded it in just two, and was received with generally positive reviews. It is a more mellow sound than the usual Black.

 

 

Lastly, he has also worked on music with his wife Violet Clark. Their band Grand Duchy is completely art rock, with Black even saying that ”it’s about seeing the band as an art project as opposed to just rock n’ roll numbers.” The artsy side of it is probably more credited to his wife, who has an art history background. They say they each write half of every song, though, and everything is played by them. It is certainly an interesting new sound for Black– still weird, though.

 

 

 

 

 

(500) Days of Black Francis

1

500_days_of_summer_tom_does_karaoke

Do you recall Joseph Gordon Levitt’s drunken karaoke singing in (500) Days of Summer? Well, he was rocking out to a Pixies song. That particular Pixies song was ”Here Comes Your Man” and was written by Black Francis when he was a teenager. He wasn’t very proud of it, though, and there was actually reluctance to release it, mostly because it was ”too pop” (and we all know that’s a rock ‘n’ roll sin, duh). Essentially, the song was too normal for the usual Pixies, and that’s why it ended up being called their ”breakthrough song” because it was catchy and therefore easier to appeal to a more general public. No surprise there. You can’t even bring irony into this. It had to happen.

As relatively normal as the song is for Black Francis, he still managed to make the video his usual weird by refusing to lip-sync, so he and Kim Deal just opened and closed their mouths throughout the whole video. How totally punk rock and rebellious, yeah? The distorted fish-eye lens also adds a nice touch to the whole thing. Of course, the video wasn’t as well-received as the song itself because of this, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad video. Personally, I would think it to be something more iconic, and wonder why more people don’t talk about this. But I guess I keep forgetting that Pixies are considered to be an ”underground” band. Though as ”underground” as they may have been, you can’t deny their presence in pop culture even to this day, especially in movies, such as the aforementioned (500) Days of Summer. And Black Francis’ solo music also gets its own credit, like in Scott Pilgrim vs the World (which I wrote about yesterday). His music will surely keep making its way into various soundtracks and hopefully prove to be timeless, as it deserves to be. Even if it’s just being covered by drunk actors.

Black Francis/Frank Black – Solo Work

1

Remember that scene in Scott Pilgrim vs the World where Scott find out Ramona is somewhere around the party he’s at and he starts walking around, scanning the house until he spots her leaning against a wall alone and tells her that lame story about how Pac-Man got its name? I don’t really care if you know what I’m talking about; that was just the best opening statement I could come up with. Anyway, the song that plays in the background during that particular scene is titled ”I Heard Ramona Sing” (yes, fitting) and it is by none other than Frank Black aka Black Francis. As appropriate as it is for the movie, it was not written specially for it. In fact, that one song is from Black Francis’ first solo album Frank Blackwhich was released in 1993.

This song doesn’t fail to come off as pretty weird, but then, none of Black Francis’ music ever does. There is something about his writing style that just makes every song sound like something you’ve never heard before, which is why they can also be easily disliked (I’ve seen quite a few critiques on this song saying that it’s boring). But the great thing about Black Francis is that there is no fluff– he just writes what he wants to write and doesn’t give a shit. It is said that this song could actually be about the Ramones. It’s also said that the line that says ”I hope if someone retires / they pull another Menudo” could be an allusion to the 1970s Puerto Rican boy band Menudo (which was known for replacing members when they were considered to be too old for the group), which is plausible considering his tendency to make random references to Puerto Rican things in his lyrics. Whatever it may be, his work, whether in a band or solo, continues to be endlessly fascinating concerning composition, and the fact that you can never seem to fully figure out his intents.