Dear Reader how I wanted it to be.I opened the case, stuck it in the player and with my fingers crossed (ever tried putting a CD in player with your fingers crossed, its hard work), I prayed to all of the available deities, supreme beings and immortal overlords/ladies that may or may not exist that are available on a Thursday morning to work their magic. They failed me. Every. Single. One. Even Gavin the God of Biscuits.

This is not, to great regret, Frank Black from the Pixies doing a cover version of the jiggytastic Will Smith classic, Men In Black. I can’t describe how disappointed I was not to hear Frank growl :-

Uh../Here come the Men in Black/It’s the M.I.B.’s, uhh, here come the M.I.B.’s/Here come the Men in Black/ They won’t let you remember/Nah nah nah

What you get instead if Frank singing about” Dinner plates and the shapes of cucumbers” as you would probably expect from Frank Black.

mp3 : Frank Black – Men In Black

About half an hour later I remembered that Frank had a lengthy solo career away from the Pixies (in fact far more prolific as a solo artist) and that this ONLY solo stuff by him that I have. This single came from his third solo album The Cult of Ray. The album was supposedly different from Franks other solo efforts in that it was recorded live but like much of Frank’s other solo efforts, it wasn’t commercially that successful (I’m beginning to see a theme running through this box, critically lauded records, largely ignored by the record buying public) but the stripped down approach did continue through several of his next releases.

You would be a brave person to state that Frank Black solo is better than the Pixies. He isn’t and this single is nowhere as good as the majority of the Pixies back catalogue. It is however a pretty good song and it’s certainly worth four minutes of your life listening to it.

So for the debate – singers who have gone solo that have released records better than they did when they were in a band. Morrissey doesn’t count, his solo records are terrible and deep in your hearts you all know that. It may be the lack of tea but the only one I can think of right now is Sophie Ellis Bextor.  Murder on the Dancefloor was miles better than anything than her band thaudience ever released.

JC adds…..

After all that I wrote yesterday, there’s no way I can accept SWC’s take on Morrissey.  His solo career has had plenty of wonderful moments interspersed with some disappointing material, and I’m happy to argue that Vauxhall and I is up there with The Smiths LPs.

As for any others whose solo material is better than from their band days……that’s a cracking one to ponder.  Off the top of my head I thought of Peter Gabriel and then there’s one of my cult heroes Adam Stafford whose solo stuff is superior and hugely different from his beginnings with Y’All Is Fantasy Island (but that’s an opinion in which I might well be in a minority).  Julian Cope is another worth thinking about……

I had to dig deep for others……Bjork up against Sugarcubes is one worth debating.   Neil Young is worth a shout.  Another one that could be argued is Norman Cook with some thinking Fatboy Slim is superior to The Housemartins (not me though!).  Richard Hawley emerged from Longpigs to great acclaim…

One that I would argue for, perhaps controversially is Paul Haig whose 25 years of solo material far outweighs three singles and an LP by Josef K.

Any thoughts dear readers?


  1. I thought for sure you would come clean and say Clare Grogan. You have apologized for Love Bomb so many times over the years I’m beginning to suspect you actually like it more than anything by Altered Images. Just kidding. Bjork and Haig are interesting. I probably like Sugarcubes and Josef K more but they were around for such a short period of time. Particularly with Bjork, I admit her solo career has been more important.

  2. A difficult one, Scott Walker? Curtis Mayfield? Eno certainly went on to have a more interesting career, although I’m not sure anything he did post-Roxy was ever as good as Virginia Plain or Ladytron and I’m sure Robert Fripp did better work after leaving King Crimson but not all of it solo.

  3. Like you JC, cannot agree with SWC’s assessment of Moz’s solo work. I do agree that Frank Black’s solo work never reaches the stratospheric awesomeness the Pixies did, but there are some darn good records in there. ‘Dog In The Sand’ is a particularly good example (although not strictly solo as it was the third album he made with the Catholics), and I do like ‘Bluefinger’, the record he discovered how to scream again.

    Being a Huuuuge Cerys Matthews fans, I’d definitely argue that her solo stuff (her recent records in particular) beats the pants off all Catatonia’s canon. You can’t really compare Sugarcubes (or Kukl for that matter, or Tappi Tikarass) with Bjork solo. They are completely different beasts. Gabriel post-Genesis is a no-brainer, but I loved the Longpigs, never really got into Hawley’s solo work. He’s a lovely bloke though.

  4. The first name in my head was Nick Lowe. Most of the records he made after the breakdown of Brinsley Schwarz were excellent in their time.

  5. … can’t think of many more, tho i reckon bob mould and lou reed both deserve at least honourable mentions for some of their output since husker du & the velvet underground

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