Grand Duchy is the latest venture from Charles Thompson (a.k.a Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis). It’s a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Grand Duchy’s playful and slightly Euro-affected debut album, Petits Four, is out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl. Thompson and Clark are guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week. Read our Q&A with them.
Black Francis learned muted, plucky rhythm guitar from listening to the Cars on the radio. Violet bought all their records (on vinyl, natch) and studied the masterfully poppy song construction for hours on end in her aqua bedroom with the rainbow-and-wildflower-field photomural on one wall.
Ric Ocasek, the real Thin White Duke, was a freaky-looking frontman who made it hip for a frontman to be smart, funny and needily co-dependent with women. Ben Orr was the pretty-boy bass player who girls could crush on. His bass playing is monumentally influential on Violet, as were Greg Hawkes’ deeply satisfying and catchy new-wave synth confections. Ugly and pretty, perpetually in the lurch, acidic, rocking and leering, feeling exclusive yet utterly lowest-common-denom, the Cars’ ouevre is a steamy, dancey, flirty Saturday night at Froghoppers set to music.
“Just What I Needed (Demo)”: