[Review] Frank Black & Teenage Fanclub: The John Peel Session (1995)

Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub together? It’s like getting a fourth magic wish for free.

Kronomyth 2.5: A Frank Black and the Catholics education.

The first time I saw this record, I mistook it for a mishmash of miscellaneous Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub recordings made for John Peel’s radio show. But this is actually the real deal: Black and TF playing together in an alternative rock version of 1992’s Olympic Dream Team. And, yes, it is as awesome as you would think, although it’s over far too soon. Apparently, Frank Black was on a Del Shannon kick when he recorded this session, choosing both Handyman and Sister Isabel from Shannon’s canon. If you’ve only heard Black’s “Handyman” version from the Otis Blackwell tribute, Brace Yourself!, then you’d better brace yourself indeed. This version sounds like The Clash on cocaine (or whatever James Taylor’s version would sound like in Bizarro world). The second Shannon tune is “Sister Isabelle,” an overlooked gem that Black and the band turn into a gothic masterpiece. The two Black originals are slightly less interesting. The Jacques Tati is another entry in Black’s musical theater of the ridiculous, while The Man Who Was Too Loud is an idea that Black should revisit when he’s in a quieter mood. As for Teenage Fanclub, they do a great job of sweetening up the mix, naturally. At the end of fourteen minutes, you’ll be convinced that every band should have three guitarists. “Good rowdy knockabout stuff” indeed, to borrow a phrase from John Peel.

Original EP version

A1. Handyman (Jimmy Jones/Otis Blackwell)
A2. The Man Who Was Too Loud (Frank Black)
B1. The Jacques Tati (Frank Black)
B2. Sister Isabel (Brian Hyland/Del Shannon)

The Players

Frank Black (guitar, lead vocals), Norman Blake (guitar, backing vocals), Gerrard Love (bass, backing vocals), Raymond McGinley (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Quinn (drums). Produced by Ted De Bono.

The Pictures

Photo by Tom Sheehan. Design @ Definition.

The Plastic

Released on EP and CDEP in 1995 in the UK (Strange Fruit, SFPS/SFPSCD 091).

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