If breaking up is hard to do, then going solo after the breakup is that much harder.
No better evidence exists than the Beatles themselves, since John Lennon was never able to top the Fab Four and Paul McCartney has yet to match even his more trivial Beatles' numbers. And let's not mention Ringo Starr's or George Harrison's post-Beatles output.Typically, members of "alternative-rock" bands have also fallen short in their solo careers - Boy George and Midge Ure leap to mind - and Elvis Costello wisely regrouped with the Attractions this year after three solo mishaps.
Three singers for acclaimed "modern-rock" groups from the '70s, '80s and '90s have released new solo efforts to mixed results:
FRANK BLACK; "Teenager of the Year" (4AD/Elektra). * * *
Black Francis sure has a lot of catching up to do.
While his former Pixies band-mates have gone on to bigger and better things - bass guitarist Kim Deal now leads the Breeders, while drummer David Lovering pounds skins for Cracker - the rechristened Frank Black hasn't had nearly the success or acclaim he once had.
Fortunately, his second solo effort is miles better than his self-titled debut. Weird, loud guitar-pop dominates "Teenager of the Year," and some of it's pretty irresistible, despite the fact that it runs a bit long.
"Headache" is the obvious winner, but "Whatever Happened to Pong?" and "(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain" are quirky enough to be close seconds.
DAVID BYRNE; self-titled (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.). * *
When will David Byrne learn that four Talking Heads are better than his one?
Since the Heads disbanded in 1989, Byrne has embraced Latin music and other "exotic" music styles while continuing his odd pop. For his fourth post-Heads release, Byrne has assembled a new quartet that pales in comparison.
Even the best songs on "David Byrne" are cluttered, not enhanced by the busy arrangements, and Byrne's songs are disturbingly "normal."
Only "You & Eye" and "A Long Time Ago" show any trace of Byrne's talents. A career re-think or Heads reunion can't be far behind after this clinker.
BOB MOULD; "Poison Years" (Virgin/Capitol). * * * 1/2
Former Husker Du guitar-ist/songwriter Bob Mould was surely an odd choice for a balladeer, but before moving on to Sugar, that's where Mould wound up.
The CD-only release "Poison Years" compiles Mould's two solo efforts with some live material. Even if it weren't as musically rewarding as it is, "Poison Years" would show Mould's often-ignored or neglected writing skills.
"Wishing Well" and "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton" both mix superb guitar arrangements - wherein Mould cheats a little by overdubbing two acoustic guitars - and introspective lyrics.
And though his vocal skills aren't always up to the task of singing the more restrained numbers, there are still some all-out rockers that allow Mould to rip it up.
RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.