Frank Black has been kidnapped. This is not your father”s Frank Black. However you say it, Dog in the Sand is definitely not typical of the very influential Black Francis. If you”re not familiar with the name, Black was the lead singer of “80s indie-rock gods the Pixies, whose other members went on to do lots of drugs and form such bands as the Breeders and the Martinis. If you are familiar with Frank Black, you know his solo stuff has been diverging ever farther from Pixies-like sounds since the band”s breakup in the early “90s. Dog in the Sand is Black”s seventh post-Pixie work, and has little or nothing to do with indie-rock.
Black”s vocal range, which ranges from high alto to low bass, is underused on the album he is almost exclusively grounded in midrange. Most of the tracks on Dog sound like lost Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones songs, right down to Black”s perfect mimicry of Lou Reed and Mick Jagger”s voices. Black rarely sounds like himself on this album other tracks bring to mind Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Joe Cocker, and Dave Wyndorf, the lead singer of Monster Magnet.
Dog in the Sand is arranged and written brilliantly. Musically, the album is a mix of the Underground”s eclectic simplicity and the Stones” bluesy rock, with the exception of the very excellent latin/country track “Llano del Rio.” The lyrics are the only holdovers from Frank Black”s Pixie past. Lines like “I am a dog /I am a sculpture” are trademark Black. The slow piano-driven “I”ll Be Blue” has some of the best lines as Black tells the listener “Like Jesus Christ on the hill/like the alleys of old Lyon/I”ll be blue.” Other standout tracks include “I”ve Seen Your Picture” and “Hermaphroditos.”
Unfortunately, though, Frank Black and the Catholics” (which include former members of Captain Beefheart”s Magic Band and ex-Pixie Joey Santiago on guitar) Dog in the Sand sounds mostly like a tribute to the Underground and Stones. The songs are very solid, but lack the normal Frank Black flair. The album, as a result, is only slightly better than average.