Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heavy Band 007: the PIXIES

Though the Pixies have come into some popularity in recent years, they were not always seen as cool. When they broke up they had few fans, but it seems that every fan made a band. Their break up was sealed with the release of their last album Trompe le Monde, released the day before Nevermind and the "Alternative" music explosion that would follow it. But instead of talking of the end of the pixies, I should probably start at the beginning.
Formed in 1986 in Boston, the Pixies created music that wasn't being heard at the time. It defied classification. It was soft at points, but wasn't pop. It was incredibly heavy in other areas, but wasn't metal. Their music is simple yet complex. The Pixies have a deceptive sound, urging you to turn up the stereo to understand the quiet mumbling only to blast out your eardrums when the chorus comes in.
Black Francis'' vocals were smooth and quiet at times, yet at other times, screaming and electrified. His rhythm guitar adds to the soft and the loud elements.
Joey Santiago's lead guitar lurks around corners like a flasher waiting for his moment to wail free. When he did thrash it was so much heavier than mainstream metal at the time.
Kim Deal's chugging bass line, kept it simple, but was capable of incredible speed.
David Lovering on drums provided the base from which they could mosey or launch off of. He was the only member of the band to actually have traditional training. Playing drums in high school band.
The Pixies sound incorporated elements of pop, blues, bluegrass, hardcore, and at times hip hop.
The Pixies first full length album was Surfer Rosa, and it was released in 1988. It featured the throbbing post punk anthem Cactus. The song has the feel of a track by T. Rex. The tracks Gigantic and Where is my Mind? make the template for what would be alternative music in the 1990s.
1989's Doolittle had 15 tracks equally ready to be singles, provided that they would see no airplay on mainstream radio. Particularly heavy songs on the album include Debaser, Dead, and Monkey Gone to Heaven. Monkey Gone to Heaven climaxes with belting shouts of "...THEN GOD IS SEVEN!" over a jangly screeching guitars and fierce bass and drums.
The Pixies followed up Doolittle with Bossanova. Bossanova featured the post punk thrashing of Is She Weird? a tune which is reminiscent of Bauhaus' Stigmata Martyr. Bossanova also featured the poppy Dig for Fire and the haunting Blown Away. On this album Santiago's guitar playing came to the forefront with more fuzzy wailing than any of their previous albums.
Their final studio album Trompe le Monde featured one of the heaviest songs ever. Planet of Sound featured Black Francis screaming, Joe Santiago's guitar thrashing, Kim Deal's bass chugging, and Dave Lovering's drums pounding. The song is about an extraterrestrial searching for rock music. IT IS A LOUD SONG. Much of the rest of the album is loud as well, including the songs Head On and Space. Overall Trompe le Monde is the Pixies heaviest album. It features a lot of punk and metal riffs.
Normally I don't mention any live albums for the Heavy Band of the Week, but I have to make the exception with Pixies at the BBC. This album features much harder renditions of There Goes My Gun, Is She Weird? Monkey Gone to Heaven and Wave of Mutilation. Released in 1998 Pixies at the BBC has since gone on to become a heavy college rock staple at stations everywhere. When I was married in 2003 I had the whole album on my playlist at the reception. It is one of my favorite albums of all time, even though it is not a studio album.

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.