Arizona Daily Wildcat October 13, 1997
Death To The Pixies! Let the call be heard
by Doug Levy
These days it seems very hard to do anything new with music. While there's plenty of great bands out there, originality and innovation have basically become a thing of the past. That's not because musicians are being lazy; part of the great thing about music is the way you can take something old, rework it, make it your own and turn it into something new. The problem is that almost everything that can be done has been done, and only a true visionary can find a way around that hard truth.
The Pixies were visionaries.
Formed at the University of Massachusetts in the late '80s, they were spotted at a gig opening up for Throwing Muses in Boston and almost immediately signed to seminal British label 4AD. Over the course of their five-year career, they released five albums: Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe Le Monde.
Blending dissonant guitars, extremely catchy melodies, elements of punk and surf rock, esoteric lyrical references and a pure love of music, the Pixies made songs unlike anything that had come before. Now, with the release of a "greatest hits" album of sorts, Death To The Pixies, the band that turned the kids on their heads a decade ago is there to be discovered by another generation.
Of course, there's really no excuse not to know the Pixies already. If you don't think they're really quite as important as it sounds, try this on for size: Kurt Cobain said that when he wrote "Smells Like Teen Spirit," he was just trying to write a Pixies song.
Death To The Pixies is a double-disc set, the first compact disc containing classic Pixies songs from all five of their albums, and the second a live show from Europe, from the height of their career. The live CD is a sure-fire way of drawing in the longtime fans who already have all the albums and don't need the "greatest hits" collection. While it may be a bit of a marketing ploy, it's not really a nasty one, because the recording quality of the concert is excellent, a total of 21 songs were recorded from the show, and one of them, "Into The White," isn't available on any of the albums.
It's probably worth mentioning who was in the Pixies, as well. The driving creative force behind the band was none other than Frank Black, also known at various times as Charles Thompson and Black Francis. Following the breakup of the band, he went on to a solo career, still writing good songs, although never achieving the greatness of his former band. Even though Black wrote most of the Pixies' songs, they were a collective entity, a perfect example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. And the rest of those parts were guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and the inimitable Kim Deal.
Deal, as most people are aware, went on to form a little group called the Breeders, a band that owes absolutely everything to its predecessor, but also could never match it. It's kind of sad, actually, that one of the reasons behind the Pixies end was Black's refusal to give Deal more creative control in the band. The one Pixies album track she wrote and did lead vocals on, "Gigantic," was probably the band's greatest commercial success.
Whatever the reasons behind the breakup, though, whether they got along or not, they were still one of the greatest, and most innovative, American rock bands of all time. Whereas other groups who release "greatest hits" albums have to fill out the space left over from the real hits with mediocre, lesser-known tracks, Death To The Pixies suffers from the opposite problem. Even with 17 tracks on one CD, they couldn't fit every great song the band released.
Actually, to do that, they'd have to make it a five disc collection: The Albums of The Pixies.