What’s the saying about every great man having a great woman behind him? Now that sentiment can officially be applied to ’80s alternative icon Frank Black. For his latest project, dubbed Grand Duchy, the former Pixies front man (a.k.a. Black Francis)-turned-solo artist has teamed up with his wife, Violet Clark. The duo will release their debut, a nine-song, 37-minute nugget of an album called “Petits Fours,” on April 14.

Indie pop/rock
Cooking Vinyl
April 14, 2009

The band was borne out of a day of studio experimentation, with Clark and Black handling all the vocal and instrumental duties themselves. Their collaboration, which was fraught with “creative tension,” according to Black, sounds less like a creative process than a marriage counseling session and involved “a fair amount of shouting and throwing things.” (“She digs the ’80s. I had spent the latter part of the ’80s doing my part to destroy the ’80s,” he elaborates.) But that first day yielded the dreamy song “Fort Wayne,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

On “Petits Fours,” Clark’s ’80s affinity rears its head through keyboard and vocal effects, and Black pays homage to his musical beginnings on songs like “Break the Angels” and album opener “Come On Over to My House.” Clark’s soft, feminine vocals contrast with her husband’s gravelly growl in much the way his Pixies bandmate Kim Deal’s did. But while Deal’s voice was so wispy that it seemed disembodied at times, Clark’s has significantly more substance, as showcased on the excellent “Lovesick.”

Though it would be a stretch to describe any of the tracks as radio-friendly, Pixies fans might find the album’s overall accessibility disarming. Still, it’s hard not to be seduced by the swirling synthesizers on “Seeing Stars” or the delicate “la la la” refrain on “Fort Wayne.”

According to the album’s press release, the couple plans to use any profits they might earn from Grand Duchy to put a down payment on a house in Luxembourg. Here’s hoping they factor in room for a recording studio.

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Elizabeth Raftery is senior editor of Blast. Follow her on Twitter.

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