Artist of the Week: the Pixies

If you’re not familiar with the Pixies, you’ve still might have heard some of their songs before.  Ever seen the movie Fight Club?  The Pixies’ most well-known tune, “Where is My Mind?”, plays during Fight Club’s famous final scene.

And if you haven’t heard the Pixies or watched Fight Club before, then ask yourself a question: have you ever lived?

The Pixies were a pioneering alternative rock band from Boston, Massachusetts in the 1980s.  Made up of singer Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist/singer Kim Deal, and drummer David Lovering, they developed a unique and influential sound that owed as much to surf rock as it did to the noisy trends of college radio.

Along with REM, The Smiths and Sonic Youth, the Pixies played a huge role in developing alternative rock.  While they never received mainstream popularity, they influenced an entire generation of musicians and paved the way for alt-rock to make it out from the underground.  Kurt Cobain referred to them as Nirvana’s biggest influence and one of his all-time favorite bands.

He also confessed that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a Pixies rip-off:

I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.

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From 1987 to 1991, the Pixies made four great albums before breaking up and going their separate ways.  They should have left their perfect legacy intact.

Instead, they reformed in 2014 (sans Kim Deal) for Indie Cindy, their first album in 23 years.  As expected, they couldn’t recapture their old magic.  As much as I hated to admit it, the once-cherished band was now well past their prime and it probably would have been better for everyone if they had just stayed broken up.

But they didn’t stop there, as they followed up Indie Cindy with another “it’s obvious we’re past our prime, but the money helps” album: last year’s Head Carrier.

It’s a classic case of “band that didn’t need to reform goes ahead and does it anyways.”  I mean, nobody really expected these new Pixies albums to be any good, right?  It’s like Michael Jordan’s Wizards years.

In the oncoming week, I’ll be listening to the Pixies’ ill-advised comeback.

In the meantime, here’s some good Pixies:

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