New wave upstarts turned college-rock royalty turned alternative-rock avatars PIXIES are playing Riot Fest in Chicago September 15. And while their soft-hard/quiet-loud unhinged dynamics didn’t make bank for them the way it did for other bands, they continue to leave a deep mark on the veneer of future generations of underground rockers. Frontman/guitarist Frank Black, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist/vocalist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering are still as vital as ever, and the arc of their history still speaks volumes about the continued possibilities of rock music. Here are 10 reasons why you need to get familiar with ‘em if you haven’t already.
The first new music from the band since 2004’s merely okay “Bam Thwok,” “Bagboy” is pretty sublime, peppered with frontman Frank Blank’s puzzling, genius non sequiturs (“Cover your breath/polish your speech”) and powered by Lovering’s boom and Santiago’s squeal. It’s the reform-school grandson to the band’s classic, “Dig For Fire” from 1990’s Velouria. Spoiler alert: Watch the video all the way to the end—it creeped the living hell out of this writer.
2. THEY WERE ON THE COVER OF AP 22.
In our September 1989 cover story, Frank Black waxed enthusiastically about UFOs, his band’s work ethic (“We’re competing with our favorite records”), his favorite meal (rice and beans, also the name of band’s publishing company), the original title for the band’s acclaimed Surfer Rosa album (Whore), vigilantism (“I don’t think revenge is good, but I think it ought to get so bad that everything collapses”), as well as predicting the rise of Nickelback (“It’s okay if people have bland, mediocre tastes. I mean, if that’s what they want, I don’t care”).
3. THE BANDS IN YOUR HARDDRIVE LOVE THEM.
In 1999, Glue Factory Records issued Where Is My Mind, a Pixies tribute featuring the participation of such scene staples as the Get Up Kids, Far, Weezer, Braid, Reel Big Fish, the Promise Ring and Samiam among others. In 2009, Travis Richter and Derek Bloom took some time off from being in From First To Last to deposit a Pixies cover on Youthanize, the debut album from their side project, the Colour Of Violence.
One of their signature songs, sung by bassist Kim Deal, that may have been influenced by the 1986 dark comedy Crimes Of The Heart or the point of view of a… uh… “size queen.” It was also covered by OK Go, Hello Goodbye and those Surfer Blood guys that all those Pitchfork readers seem to like.
5. THEY ENLISTED KIM SHATTUCK.
In June of this year, it was announced bassist/vocalist Kim Deal would not be participating in the next big round of Pixies activity. Undaunted, the remaining members were stoked to enlist the positively bad-assed Kim Shattuck, the rock ’n’ roll lifer who brought some grit and mania to such outfits as the Pandoras and the cool-as-feck quartet, the Muffs. Check out Ms. Shattuck on the Muffs’ track “Lucky Guy,” where she wields a voice that sounds like someone put powdered glass in her… uh… Pixy Stix. Oh yeah: That’s her on NOFX’s “Lori Meyers” from Punk In Drublic. Seriously people, Courtney who?
6. NIRVANA RIPPED THEM OFF. WELL, KINDA.
The late Kurt Cobain told Rolling Stone in January 1994 that Nirvana’s über-massive signature track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a blatant attempt to write a song using Pixies’ quiet/loud-as-hell dynamics. We’d like to think the Pixies at least got a fancy dinner out of it somewhere along the line…
7. “MONKEY’S GONE TO HEAVEN”
The parents of Screamo Nation rocked this one a long time ago. Check the 2:10 mark for evidence.
8. THEY MAKE OTHER BANDS’ SONGS BETTER.
Dullard internet commenters always say idiot stuff like “blows the original version away” when it comes to bands covering other peeps’ tracks. But since the Jesus And Mary Chain took $50 off this writer at their ghastly reunion last year, the glory goes to Pixies for this blitzkrieg JAMC cover and none of the bubbling, venomous contempt I have for the brothers Reid. And the video is so ridiculously cool.
You know how record labels will reissue some band’s disc and slap a DVD in it or a handful of bonus tracks to get you to pony up for it one more time? Well, you could buy all five Pixies LPs and spend around $60 with your state’s draconian sales tax. Or for around just south of $400, you could drop for Minotaur, the be-all, end-all investment in your Pixies fandom, containing five compact discs, two DVDs, one Blu-ray DVD of Doolittle, five 180-gram vinyl albums and two books. (This writer doesn’t have it, but his birthday is next week. Come on, folks. I rarely ask you for anything…)
10. DUDE, THE VANS.
High-tops adorned with one of their early shirt designs. You didn’t get a pair? Your parents are still wondering where they went wrong.
I BOUGHT ONE OF THEIR RECORDS SOLELY BECAUSE I ADORED THE COVER ART.