Frank Black & The Catholics – Black Letter Days: #368 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is Frank Black & The Catholics’ Black Letter Days on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

Frank Black is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and it’s been a tremendously fun journey discovering his music over the years. Challenging too in some ways, as I’ll explain.

The gateway to the World of Black is his ongoing presence as the frontman of the Pixies, which on its own is a tremendous band and a famously influential one on a generation of rock and punk bands.

But then consider over the past thirty years or so that Black has recorded – and by recorded I mean multiple albums – under both the names Frank Black and Black Francis. And then, just to mix things up, there’s a spectacular solo acoustic album that he recorded as Frank Black Francis (called, as it turns out, Frank Black Francis).

And then we get to another six studio albums as of this writing (not to mention a really good live album!) of Black performing with a band that all told is called Frank Black & The Catholics.

Now, figuring all of that out in the pre-Internet era was not especially easy, thus the fun and challenge.

The wild thing is that there’s really no World of Black recordings that I dislike, just stuff that I find more compelling and exciting and intriguing than others. And I’ll end this part by admitting (frankly?) that as I get older, it’s the solo Black World stuff plus Frank Black & The Catholics that often draws me in more than the fantastic and iconic in their own right Pixies.

Okay, let’s get to Frank Black & The Catholics and Black Letter Days.  

It’s the gorgeous and jangly “Valentine and Garuda” that I’ll usually throw on first with this album. Black singing over an acoustic guitar kick off the track before segueing into accompaniment by piano, slide guitar, and a subtle and beautiful arrangement from the rest of the band.

Black has such a knack for making music that’s unique and catchy, and that has remained true from the time he was at his most experimental and punk rock to the stages of his career where he’s more in “adult contemporary rock” mode. Which is quite a feat, really.

“End of Miles” again uses slide guitar to exceptional effect, this time in support of a restrained rocker that nonetheless stomps along very nicely. The beginning of the song always makes me chuckle a little, as aside, as I can easily imagine it being the start of a Tenacious D song* like “Explosivo.”

* Important note that there can be no higher compliment issued than this in my book. That is all. Carry on.

Even though this is generally a “mellower” album by Frank Black standards, there’s still plenty of excitement and energy pulsing through it, as well evidenced by songs like the fun rocker, “Jane the Queen of Love.”

Some stats & info about Frank Black & The Catholics – Black Letter Days

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Indie Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Black Letter Days released? 2002
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #368 out of 1,000

Frank Black & The Catholics’ Black Letter Days on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Frank Black & The Catholics’ Black Letter Days that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

I have a flask but I do not have the wine. I have a suit but I do not have a dime.

What’s the most interesting thing about Frank Black & The Catholics’ Black Letter Days that most people don’t know?

If you’re wondering what Black Letter Days means, here you go, from Wikipedia: “The title implies the opposite of the term “Red Letter Days” which are holidays – a “black letter day” being all the ordinary days in a given month.”

Partially related: I thought the album art was a black-and-white photo of a prison fence for a long time, but later realized that it’s simply a shifted perspective of a barbed wire fence near some powerlines. Maybe Black Letter Days implies the regular days of life, the workaday parts of our existence where most of the stuff and living happens.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.