Pixies Album Reviews

New Zealand is a lovely country, with lots of sheep and mountains, and it’s a good idea to come and visit us if you ever have the chance. Charles Thompson, however, made the right decision in 1986, when he opted out of taking a trip down under to view Halley’s comet, and instead formed a band. He rechristened himself Black Francis, and took some vocal pointers from a Thai rock star. He recruited his roommate Joey Santiago, an unpredictable lead guitarist, Kim Deal (at that point known as Mrs. John Murphy) whose gutsy vocals and bass provided an excellent counterpoint to Francis’ compelling screaming, and David Lovering who held all the various parts together with solid drumming.

The resulting conglomerate, the Pixies, were one of the most idiosyncratic rock bands of their era. Francis cites Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul and Mary as two of his favourite bands, and the Pixies’ music reflects those influences; their melodies are generally poppy and approachable but Santiago’s guitar infuses them with a nastier edge. What really sets the band apart is Francis’ lyrics and vocals; his voice erratically screams its way through whatever topic comes to mind. There are lots of other influences in the band mix too – early sixties surf rock and fellow Boston band The Cars are  assimilated into the Pixies sound.

Largely due to tensions between Deal and Francis, the Pixies announced their split in 1993. They’ve periodically reunited, but their post-reunion material has met with some disdain, so I prefer to just focus on their initial burst of brilliance. The film loudQUIETloud is a documentary of the reunion – you see various members struggling with writer’s block, alcoholism, scraping together a living making soundtracks, and performing magic shows, in between playing stellar live versions of the compelling songs they wrote.

Few groups have managed to provide such a high entertainment quotient while maintaining artistic integrity and inspiring a legion of imitators. The much more successful Nirvana are indebted to their use of extreme dynamics. Black Francis started a solo career as Frank Black, while Kim Deal formed The Breeders with her sister.

Ten Favourite Pixies Songs

River Euphrates
Gigantic
Bone Machine
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Dig For Fire
Debaser
Where Is My Mind?
I Bleed
Planet of Sound
U-Mass