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Frank Black and the Catholics were a musical outfit led by Pixies frontman Charles Thompson ('Frank Black') following that band's initial demise. Between 1998-2003 they released six studio albums, but have since gone on apparent hiatus as Thompson has turned to focus on solo material (as Frank Black and, later, Black Francis) and the Pixies reunion.
Using the "backing band" from his 1996 solo album, The Cult of Ray, Thompson dubbed his new band "Frank Black and the Catholics", and recorded their eponymous first album in 1997. His band consisted of Lyle Workman on lead guitar, bassist David McCaffrey and Scott Boutier on drums.
Frank Black and the Catholics became the first album to be posted to the eMusic service; they claim it is "the first album ever made legally available for commercial download". Having eschewed multi-track recording for his later solo material, Thompson continued the live-to-two-track technique for all subsequent releases under the Catholics. Live-to-two-track recording precludes the use of overdubs to correct errors or add texture; all takes are recorded continuously, and mixing is done "on the fly". On later albums, he incorporated more musicians into the sessions to allow for more varied instrumental textures. Explaining his rationale behind the method, he commented:
"Well, it's real. It's a recording of a performance, of a real performance between a group of people, an entourage, a band, as opposed to a facsimile of that, which is frequently what people do with multi-track recording ... I prefer it. It's a little more real. It's got a little more heart."
Workman left the Catholics in 1998 to pursue session work with Rich Gilbert replacing him. Frank Black and the Catholics released Pistolero in 1999 and Dog in the Sand in 2001. Dog in the Sand added Dave Philips on pedal steel guitar and lead guitar, with Joey Santiago and Eric Drew Feldman making appearances with the group live and on record.
By this time, while dismissing the possibility of a Pixies reunion, Thompson had begun to incorporate an increasing number of the band's songs into Catholics concerts, as well as including Santiago in his solo work again. Black and the Catholics continued to release records; two separate albums, Black Letter Days and Devil's Workshop, were released simultaneously in 2002. Devil's Workshop included the song "Velvety", a version of the Pixies' song "Velvety Instrumental Version" (written by Black as a teenager) with lyrics. The song was one of the first signs that he had acknowledged his past work with the Pixies in his solo output. A sixth album with the Catholics, Show Me Your Tears, was released in 2003. Show Me Your Tears' title and many of the songs in it were inspired by Thompson's recent divorce and entry into therapy.
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