For those of you familiar with the Coen brothers movie “The Big Lebowski”, you’ll remember the old-timer who does the voiceover that introduces Jeff Bridges character – the Dude – with the immortal phrase “sometimes there’s a man – I won’t say a hero, because what is a hero – but sometimes there’s a man and he’s the man for his time and place – he fits right in there” and if you applied this introduction to the Pixies, then you’d be right on the money. When it comes to name checking for key influences by most alternative rock bands, the Pixies are mentioned more often than not – in fact Kurt Cobain (before he stepped on a rainbow and went to Jesus), confessed “I was just trying to rip off the Pixies” – and if you’re going to rip anyone off, it always pays to rip off the best.
For all of us there are bands and artists that hold a special place – maybe we associate them with a particular event or a great live show that you kind of had to be there for or whatever. These artists aren’t necessarily great or even good but that’s why they invented bargain basements – right? However there are also those artists that changed the world like Elvis, the Sex Pistols and Public Enemy. In any such list, the Pixies fit right in there. They took the standard rock format and infused it with real energy while allowing for the intelligence of their audience – this in a time when Van Halen was jumping and Rick Astley was top of the charts. Rough times kids but we survived thanks to Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and David Lovering.
While all the Pixies albums are of a superior quality, the one that I prefer the most is Doolittle – released on 4AD records in 1989. After the startling promise of Surfer Rosa, the difficult second album turned out to be a genuine classic. Kicking off with the mesmeric Debaser, with its bass intro, driving drumbeat and distorted guitar, the lyrics are loosely based on a scene from Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou – “got me a movie, I want you to know, slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know”, an absolute star turn. Then it’s straight into Tame, with the snapping drumbeat and Kim Deal’s superb bass playing alongside those demented lyrics again. With hardly a pause for breath, it’s a headlong rush to the Wave of Mutilation and Francis is walking the sand with the crustaceans while the rest of the band try to cook up as much of a sonic storm as possible.
After this high octane start, I Bleed represents a chance to take a breather initially while it builds to a crescendo with the song title spoken over the music lending it an eerie if noisy quality. Here Comes Your Man represents one of the most accessible songs in the Pixies catalogue – you can’t fail to hear that bass line intro and not be instantly hooked. Certainly Francis has calmed down after the energy expended on the first few tracks, but there’s still that driving drumbeat and the aaaaah-oooo wolf howl in there!!
Back to business as usual with Dead. The intro has more guitar distortion, the words “what do you think of nothing” and it sort of rocks out from there. It’s hard to believe that this sound is coming from an electric guitar, but it is. This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven is a relatively languid song in comparison to what has gone before, but it contains the immortal “if man is 5 then the devil is 6 and if the devil is 6 then God is 7” delivered in a way that you ought never have to think twice when picking those lottery numbers.