Feature image credit: Rob Vorhortst
Pixies are a band from Boston, Massachusetts, whose original lineup included Black Francis (Charles Thompson IV), Kim Deal, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering. Kim’s sister, Kelley, did audition to be the drummer but was not confident in her playing. She later joined Kim’s band, The Breeders.
Pixies burst onto the Indie music scene with a seventeen-song demo known as The Purple Tape. This recording happened after the band was seen by producer Gary Smith while opening for Throwing Muses, and the recordings were funded by Francis’s father. After being signed to 4AD Records, the Pixies chose eight songs, including “The Holiday Song,” “I’ve Been Tired,” and “Nimrod’s Son” from The Purple Tape to record. It was these recordings that became their debut EP, Come On Pilgrim (1987).
Come On Pilgrim was followed up by their debut full-length album, Surfer Rosa (1988), which was produced by legendary producer Steve Albini. Surfer Rosa featured the single “Gigantic,” a song that came to be a major influence on bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Radiohead, and PJ Harvey. The album also featured the track “Where Is My Mind?,” which later featured prominently at the end of the film Fight Club and its accompanying soundtrack.
In 1989, the Pixies released their sophomore record, Doolittle. This time, the band opted for Gil Norton as producer. Two singles, “Here Comes Your Man, and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” then were released from Doolittle, but many other tracks such as “Debaser,” and “Wave Of Mutilation” became very popular as well. Doolittle is widely considered among the Pixie’s best and has made many best-of-all-time lists as well. I recall reading an article where Art Alexakis of Everclear said, “I quit my job and formed a band after hearing Doolittle.”
As a single, “Here Comes Your Man” featured an alternate version of the song, “Wave Of Mutilation” subtitled (“UK Surf”), which showed up in the film, Pump Up The Volume, and was the first time the band made an impression on me.
In between this record and the follow-up, the Pixies took a break during which Kim Deal formed The Breeders with Tanya Donelly (of Throwing Muses and later Belly), and Josephine Wiggs (A Perfect Disaster). They recorded the album Pod, which featured a great cover of the Beatles song “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.
Bossanova (1990) followed this short hiatus, with songs such as the singles “Dig For Fire” and “Velouria.” This was the album that really started my Pixies fandom. I had previously purchased the “Here Comes Your Man” 12″ single, as well as Doolittle but somehow, this was the album that clicked for me. I particularly was a fan of the track “Is She Weird.”
As an album, Bossanova is solid back to front and led to me being very excited when I saw the next release in my local record store. This was the “Planet Of Sound” 7″ single. I was not aware a new record was coming, but this was, of course, the first single from the album, Trompe Le Monde. To say I ate this album up would be an understatement. Everyone I knew had to listen to it. Fortunately, most liked it too.
Starting with the “Trompe Le Monde” title/instrumental title track, and going right into the killer singles “Planet Of Sound,” and “Alec Eiffel,” the music is straight up in your face, and continues at a relentless pace. A cover of “Head On” (Jesus and Mary Chain), and then, “U-Mass” continues the onslaught before the album slows down with tracks such as “Palace Of The Brine,” and “Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons.” Another highlight of the latter part of this masterpiece is “Subbacultcha” (a track from the original Purple Tape).
The album was well received and is highly regarded. I was able to be at one of the shows on the tour where the Pixies played a show with Pere Ubu opening for them. It is a daunting task to follow up David Thomas onstage, but they did well. It was a good show, but the tension between members was apparent. So, when I heard they had broken up, I can’t say I was surprised.
Following the breakup, Black Francis adopted the moniker “Frank Black,” and put out more great music both as a solo artist and with The Catholics. Kim Deal went full-time with The Breeders and had success with the album Last Splash (1993).
The Pixies did reunite in 2004 for several tours, and eventually, started putting out new material. Kim Deal left the band once again in 2013. She was briefly replaced by Kim Shattuck (The Pandoras and The Muffs) until they hired Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle). The Pixies then released three new albums after reuniting, and of these, Beneath The Eyrie, in particular, really fits well with their early discography. This said, Indie Cindy, and Head Carrier are worth checking out too.
In retrospect, Trompe Le Monde is an important record partially due to its quality, but also, because it marked the end of one era in Pixie’s history. The band continues to this day, and I feel that is a good thing for the music world.
Please enjoy the video below regarding the Pixies classic album, Trompe Le Monde:
Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Surface Noise, by John Siden, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/surface-noise-archives/