I like the name cuz it’s ear-a-tating. It’s a stupid name.
That’s Kim Deal, interviewed on Snub TV back in 1989, discussing her group just as their second album proper, Doolittle, was on the cusp of release.
I like it cuz it’s Pixies. “Like, oh wow, really rock n roll.” It’s better than, like, Lords Of Destruction or something.
They were a weird wee band, Pixies. Four disparate characters that on appearance gave no indication at all about the sort of noise they’d create. Indiscriminately square. Dressed normally. Not a flamboyant haircut or intangible edge to any of them. Kim looked like an office secretary. David and Joey the groovy geography teachers who might play in a covers band at the weekend. Frank Black/Black Francis, out front in his lumberjack shirt and an equally-balanced love of The Beatles and Peter, Paul and Mary gave off no vibes at all about how his band might sound.
As an entity, Pixies were the very force of nature. Scrubbed to the knuckle, sandpapered acoustic guitars played in mind-melting triple chord sequences rubbed up against white-lightning guitar squalls, lung-shredding vocals and quiet/loud passages, often all within the first half minute of the song.
And the songs. You are the son of a muthur-fuckur. Losin’ my penis to a whore with disease. We’ll have our sons, they’ll be well hung. He bought me a soda and he tried to molest me in the parking lot. There was this boy who had two children with his sisters who were his daughters who were his favourite lovers. I mean, come on! Stop and listen. Really listen. It’s uncomfortable and uncompromising in equal measure. Thrilling too, though – as much as it seems wrong to say so.
So the songs are all sex and death and random swearing mainly, much of it a Hispanic mystery but, man, they totally, like, rock. They were exciting, Pixies. It didn’t matter that the song you were currently listening to wasn’t really your favourite because by the time you’d decided that, it was a short guitar twang and feedbacking space rocking blow-out away from the end.
It’s the early records that tend to be the first ones I’ll grab – Come On Pilgrim and, especially, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle – as good a one-two as any band before, then or since – but the next time you’re inclined to binge on Pixies, go straight to the albums that followed in their aftermath.
Bossanova‘s sci-fi surf still thrills. A well balanced mix of shouters and shufflers, its hard slamming riffs still rattle the brain, its weird lyrical content still surprises. With sudden endings and sudden beginnings, the tracks begin to blend as one, something Pixies did on the early records and continued to do. It can be disconcerting at times, wondering if you’re still listening to the same track you were a minute ago, but it makes for a thrilling listen. By the end of side 2 you’ll want to flip straight back over and jump in again…and it’s arguably Pixies’ weakest record in that initial run.
Pixies – Rock Music
Second track in is Rock Music, a self-explanatory stall-setter that rides in on a squiggle of wiggling feedback, air raid siren guitars and rat-a-tat drums, the tension before the release of Frank’s lung ripper of a nonsensical vocal, doing well to keep itself above the racket of gear-changing electric guitars and just about hanging in there. Suh-lag! is what he screeches for a full stop at the end, if y’didn’t know. Those folk who’ve complained today about not hearing that government-endorsed emergency warning test alert on their phones? They’ve been listening to this at 3pm, obviously.
The unassuming best track on the record may well go to the acrostic Ana. It’s a slow burning two minutes of reverb, shimmer and twang that brilliantly surfs the effect pedal-rich zeitgeist of the times, slo-mo and self-assured, the brushed drums softening Pixies normally bruising approach. The lyrics, when laid out, show that the initial letter of each line spells out the word ‘SURFER’. Simple but smart-arsed. Not enough bands do this.
Pixies – Ana
I’ll tell you what. Lana Del Rey, with her bleached-out ’50s heartbreak and sulky torch song vibe would totally kill this track. Think about it as it plays. Her A&R person should see to it that it happens.