“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.” – Kurt Cobain
“No! That’s just not right! The Pixies opening for us is like the Beatles opening for us. I won’t allow it. There’s no way we can follow the Pixies!” – Thom Yorke
“It seems nobody believed in the Pixies. It does seem that first come is last rewarded in many cases.” – David Bowie
The year was 1987. You could buy a dozen eggs for sixty five cents and a gallon of gas for under a dollar. We were being told to “Just say no,” while overseas England had done the unthinkable and elected Margaret Thatcher to an unimaginably cruel third term. It was a dark, dark time. And then the stock market crashed.
It was the year I tried to kill myself. I was fifteen-years-old and nothing I’d seen to that point gave me the slightest impression that life was going to get better. Certainly nothing the radio had to say. The top of the pops? The Bangles. Jefferson Starship. White Snake. Wang fucking Chung. If this was the best life had to offer, then why not just check out? And then the Cure released “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.” I thought my mind was blown, but I was wrong. It took the clerk at the “Tracks” record store down the street suggesting that if I really wanted to understand Robert Smith, I needed to hear “Pornography.”
“Pornography” saved my life. However bad I felt, I reasoned, it was nothing compared to Sad Robert and his mopey gits. And if he could carry on, I figured maybe I had a responsibility to stick around a bit longer. If only to hear the next album and find out whether it sucked. The thing is, I wasn’t exactly having fun listening to the Cure. It was more a case of misery appreciating more miserable company. No sir. It took hearing the Pixies the first time to really **want** to live again.
“Come on, Pilgrim” hit the charts in October of ’87 with a resounding thud. The record company wouldn’t even release it in the US. But that erstwhile record store employee made sure I had a copy on an illicit black THK cassette. It was eventually released properly the next year, packaged with their second album – “Surfer Rosa.” The band obviously didn’t like each other that much, but they found a way to make it happen for the greater goal. Ringleader Black Francis held court with Joey Santiago (lead guitar), and David Lovering (drums) while the soon to be legendary Kim Deal (whaaaat? Girls can rock too??) provided a much needed counter to his ego. Merged, they **snarled** through a setlist. The band felt dangerous, while at the same time oozing with decency. Listening to the Pixies you began to realize that Good People didn’t necessarily need to be Nice People. And that maybe it was okay to not feel so much like being Nice People. Slowly, inexorably, life began to make sense.
“We are sad to say that Kim Deal has decided to leave the Pixies. We are very proud to have worked with her on and off over the last 25 years. Despite her decision to move on, we will always consider her a member of the Pixies, and her place will always be here for her. We wish her all the best.” – Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering
“Even with her leaving, which was sort of like the big no-no, you know, no one wants her to leave — ‘Oh God, not Kim Deal, anybody, but not Kim Deal’ — we still went: ‘No, we’re going to finish the job.'” – Black Francis
Two decades and some change later finds our reluctant champions in mixed waters. Two years prior, while in the midst of recording their first completely new album as a band since 1991, founding member Kim Deal walked out. To this day she hasn’t publicly commented to any great degree concerning the split, but statements over her career with the band left little doubt that it was likely over a desire to charter more control over her music.
Still, the band pulled together and decided to make the album both without Deal and without replacing her. The resultant release “Indie Cyndi” feels in equal measures a mourning introspection of inevitable change while at the same time a trumpeting of base survival instinct. While some decry that without Deal in place it isn’t **really** a Pixies record, taken on its own merits it’s quite solid. At times it recalls some of Black Francis’ solo endeavors under the nom de plume “Frank Black and the Catholics.” At other points the past is ferociously channeled into a glimpse of what might have been if “Nevermind” had been recorded by the Pixies instead of Nirvana.
Today, it was announced via their website that they’d be launching a new tour. The list of venues reveals some startling intimate spaces given the legendary nature of the band, and on May 13th The Pixies will descend on our very own Norva. Why? Is this a case of yet another bloated alt rock band of our youth cashing in on nostalgia? Is it about nothing more than an opportunity to skin some green off the faded vestiges of our naiveté? Well.. Duh. Of course it’s about money. People gotta eat, and the Pixies have kids now. Kids that will need to go to college. And gas ain’t under a buck these days, dig?
And yet.. The Pixies, unlike any of their surviving peers, are still making new music. Are still **playing** new music live. And, most importantly? Are still rocking the fuck out in a way that no one else can even come close to.
That’s good enough for me. Long live the Pixies.