Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich - Dust to Dust (CD, 1993)

It's a damn shame that Pete Nice only put out one solo record, because this album is dope. Of course, when it comes to 3rd Bass, I was always more of a Nice man than a Serch man, so maybe I'm biased. But I've always loved listening to Pete's smooth flows on this record, and even though I'll admit things get a little cloudy in parts, I've just always been happy that this thing exists. It's not that Pete didn't get time to shine on the 3rd Bass stuff, because he did. I just always wanted to hear him let loose on the solo creep.

Clearly the 3rd Bass breakup was not a pleasant one, and there's some time spent during the course of these 16 songs picking apart Serch, sometimes blatantly, sometimes not. (Check the not-so-subtle beatdown at the beginning of the "Rat Bastard" video.) Pete was always better at being a smooth guy than a tough guy, but hearing him calmly flex nuts is still mighty amusing. His knack for choruses is questionable, but he makes up for it with verses that are worded carefully and executed well.

Pete prefers the lumbering, deliberate beats, and that can start to weigh pretty heavy towards the middle of this thing. The title track picks shit up at the end, but it should have come earlier in the proceedings. Eh. Still, Pete's got his own thing going on, and this record is more than worth the dollar you'll have to pay for it. It's much darker than Serch's solo record, and I think that's a good thing. I've always been glad both of the dudes broke loose on their own shit right after the group disbanded.

This album seems to have been long-forgotten, but I'd argue that it never got a fair shake. Maybe I'm just a Pete Nice fanboy. I'm OK with that.

"Kick the Bobo"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Praxis - Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) (CD, 1992)

Bohemia Afterdark showed the video for Praxis's "Animal Behavior" a few times after its release, and apparently that was enough for me to take the plunge with this one. I dug the shit out of that song, and any band that I could out-cool people with was good to go in my book. Turns out this record was perfect for that.

Not only is this album incredibly complex and musically mind-blowing, it's also somehow really fun to listen to. Considering that "Animal Behavior" is the only song with lyrics, and that this CD is almost an hour long, that's damn impressive. It didn't hurt that I was still incredibly into Mr. Bungle around the time this came out, and this music isn't too far removed from the style they were immersed in at the time.

Maybe I was smoking a lot of grass at the time (there's no maybe about it), but I really got heavy into this album for a while. Even by '94 or '95, I still have fond memories of playing this album for people and them hating it. It's good to have CDs like that around.

This was my first exposure to Buckethead, and I was very intrigued by him. He doesn't go too nuts on "Animal Behavior," but when I purchased the CD, I was treated to plenty of his inhuman guitar craziness. Mix that with the bass-thumpery of Bootsy Collins, the skin-hitting of Brain, and the keyboard manipulation of Bernie Worrell, and you've got yourself a band. Oh, and the mighty Bill Laswell headed the whole thing up. He's nuts.

This is as far as I went with Praxis, and I've always regretted that. I still wouldn't mind owning Sacrifist, their black-metal-ish follow-up. I should remember to look for that.

"Animal Behavior"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Positive K - Da Skills Dat Pay Da Bills (CD, 1992)

I bought this CD in a bargain bin like two years ago and have listened to it maybe once. Not sure why, because it's actually way better than I thought it would be. Solid early-90's beats, and dude can rap.

Of course, this album - and K himself - will always be remembered for the MTV hit "I Got a Man," but there's quite a bit more to him than that. "Carhoppers" is basically a recycled version of "I Got a Man," but tracks like "Pass the Mic" and "One 2 the Head" are straight dopeness, and with 16 tracks clocking in at over an hour, there's a solid amount of music here.

Next time I'm going through an early-90's rap phase (and I'm way overdue for one), I'll have to remember to bust this thing out. It's been gathering dust for far too long.

"Ain't No Crime"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Porno for Pyros - Good God's Urge (CD, 1996)

Porno for Pyros waited too long to put this CD out, and changed their sound way too much in the interim. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered if these songs were better. Somebody decided to go tropical/exotic with the instrumentation, and they just don't pull it off that well. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who love this record; I'm just not one of 'em.

The difference between 1993 and 1996 was huge, especially if you were my age. It was the difference between high school and college, the difference between Cobain and no Cobain. Things changed a lot. And while I expected Farrel to get crazy ambitious with his first post-Jane's LP, apparently he was saving that for their sophomore effort. Fair enough, and I applaud the band for trying a new direction. And there are some good songs on here. But tracks like "100 Ways" and "Kimberly Austin" are some of the weakest songs that Farrel had released up to this point, and it showed. In fact, this whole record was the first thing he did (not counting Psi Com) that wasn't really, really good.

"Tahitian Moon" remains a great song, and so does "Dogs Rule the Night." And "Freeway" and "Porpoise Head" have their moments. But overall, this thing never clicked with me. Yet I stole it from my girlfriend in 1998 and still have it. Huh.

Seriously - it is bizarre how great a song "Tahitian Moon" is, and how bland the rest of the record is compared to it.

"Tahitian Moon"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Porno for Pyros - Porno for Pyros (CD, 1993)

Though there were a few years between Jane's Addiction's last record and this, Perry Farrel's new project, it wasn't like he ever went away. Lollapalooza was in full effect, and Perry was just around. I remember being excited when this came out, though I thought that the band name was supremely hacky. It remains hacky.

Turns out this album is pretty good, though. I think its simplicity let a lot of people down after the crazy ambition of Ritual de lo Habitual, but whatever. This record sort of sounds like old Jane's Addiction stuff, and any space afforded by the slightly sparse nature of the arrangements just leaves more room for Perry's voice, and there's nothing wrong with that. I actually enjoyed that they stuck to three-and-four minute rock songs, and didn't try to do anything too fancy. If you would have asked me to guess, I would have said that Perry would have come out with something that was trying way too hard. And he didn't. And that was cool.

This record sounds a little dated now, though I still remember why I liked "Meija," "Bad Shit," "Packin' .25," and "Blood Rag." They're great songs, and actually deceptively complex. There's a good amount of variation in the tempos and styles, and they all work. And really, there's not a terrible song on here. "Pets" got played out pretty quick, but it's a catchy tune. I even have a soft spot for "Black Girlfriend" and "Orgasm," even though they're both fairly stupid if you think about them too much.

Still, '93 was a good year for rock, and I definitely played the shit out of this record. It remains the last really good thing Perry Farrel did. And it should at least be remembered for that.

"Blood Rag"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pond - Rock Collection (CD, 1997)

While most NW bands had already signed their major-label deals and been shit out the bottom of the industry by '97, Pond was bringing up the rear. I didn't know what to think when I heard they had signed with WORK (a now-defunct division of Sony), but I was just happy as shit they were going to put out another record. And considering how disparate their first two albums had been, I didn't know what to expect from the third.

I would take no satisfaction from shitting on Pond for making a weak album to satisfy the industry types, and thankfully I don't have to. Rock Collection is definitely their most "accessible" album, but it's by no means radio-ready, even if Sony thought it might be. Though Brady's songs here do portend the more mainstream-ish stuff he would go on to do with Audio Learning Center, they're not a large enough jump from his songs on their previous record to feel out of place or forced. He continues to write huge hooks, and they work throughout this record.

Campbell continues to be in the zone on this one, too. "My Dog Is An Astronaut, Though" and "You're Not A Seed" are some of the best songs he ever did with the band. And "Rebury Me" keeps his obsession with abstract structures going. "Twins" and "One Day in the Future" are two of his more straightforward songs ever, though they're both decidedly different in tone. His depression clearly hadn't subsided by this point, and the album's closer, "Ugly," is both beautiful and cringe-worthy.

The songs are divided up pretty evenly between the two dudes this time around, with Brady feeling like a much more commanding presence on this record than he did on the previous one. There are tinges of him trying to sound buzzworthy on "Spokes" and "Golden," but thankfully he reins it in before it gets too corny. And those are fine songs - don't get me wrong. The sticker on the front of the CD says "Featuring 'Spokes' and 'Scoliosis.'" "Spokes" was the first (and only) single, but I always felt "Scoliosis" was the catchier song. Not that that matters.

Brady really gets over with "Greyhound" and "Filterless," two songs that seem to go together, and are only separated on the album by "Rebury Me," which fits in well with them, too. They're all towards the end, and they make for a strong ramp-up to the end of this record. Overall, Brady sounds invigorated on this album. Maybe he had high hopes for the major-label situation...

Of course, it ended up being the undoing of the band. This would be their last album together, making for a solid ending to their way-too-short career. Still, I'm glad they got a little taste of the big time, even if it was bitter. And this record really is a fine one. It's another completely unique effort from them, and it's crazy to think that this was only four years removed from their debut.

I've been listening to this record a lot lately, and it holds up well. Pond, we hardly knew ye.

But if nothing else, we've got this surreal video to remember them by:


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pond - The Practice of Joy Before Death (CD, LP, 1995)

Pond's debut had been unabashedly poppy in parts, and merely happy in others. The songs brimmed with wide-eyed optimism and reflected a band who seemed entirely enamored to be putting out a record. The photo on the back featured all the band members smiling, looking goofy. The front cover was one of the most colorful to ever come out on Sub Pop. Maybe anywhere. Even the toy featured on the inside cover was happy-go-lucky.

This must have been the "Joy" in The Practice of Joy Before Death.

On their sophomore release, the band went hardcore minimal for the mostly-white cover art, not even listing song titles on the back. The CD itself is marked only with a stripe, and Campbell and Brady look exhausted in the photos on the inside. Clearly there was a shift.

I don't know who hurt Charlie Campbell in between the band's debut and this record, but she should be both scolded for bringing the guy down, and thanked (it's been long enough now) for forcing Charlie to write the most personal - and best - songs of his career. Brady is at his peak here, too, though his songs are more about things than people, and don't carry quite the same level of moroseness that Campbell's do. It's actually good, because the comparatively peppy nature of Brady's songs make a nice respite from the beautiful intensity of Campbell's heartbroken tales of repressed anger. Or something to that effect.

I'm jumping around a little here.

I was a little out of the loop in '95 - broke, stoned a lot, not keeping up with music as well as I should have been. At some point during this haze I ran into my brother and he asked me if I had heard the new Pond record yet. I said I had not. "Dude." He said. He hooked me up with a copy and I listened to it and I heard exactly what he was talking about. It was incredible. Not what we expected at all. Better. It was all the good things about Pond, taken and warped and sent in an entirely different direction. As soon as I had the money, I bought a copy on CD and played it constantly. It was mind-blowingly good. I still get excited when I hear the muffled TV sample that comes before the first chords and first lyric ("Tar-baked asphalt...") to "Sideroad," the first song on the record.

It's hard to gauge the response to this record, because Pond was never a big enough band to warrant the kind of reviews that were major enough to still exist on the web these days, but I've come across blurbs that complain about the lo-fi nature of the recordings here. I think, again, it was just another effort to shift the feel of the music the band was making, and it works wonders for the songs on this record. Not that the recording is even that lo-fi. A good amount of the tracks here were recorded at home, but they don't sound noticeably depleted of anything a "real" studio atmosphere would provide. Instead, they sound highly personal and, though loose in parts, very deliberate.

Campbell penned nine of the fourteen tracks here, and co-wrote another one ("Mubby's Theme," which he sings, which makes me think it was mostly his), so he commands the feel of this record a bit more than Brady. Like I mentioned, a handful of his songs seem to be about his relationship troubles, and they make for some of his most - and pardon me for saying this - introspective lyrics. "Happy Cow Farm Family" and "Union" are sad as shit lyrically, but the songs themselves feature huge choruses that betray the delicate nature of the verses. It's great. "Patience" is just plain soul-crushing, a song that feels like it starts in the middle and ends when he gets too exhausted to continue. Yowsa.

Campbell's songs that aren't so dour are just as good: "Carpenter Ant" and "Artificial Turf" are as strange as this record gets, and the fact that they're right next to each other is a great move. Campbell's vocals on each are markedly different, and it's really interesting how their juxtaposition makes both of them stronger. "Glass Sparkles In Their Hair" is one of his most rambunctious songs ever, and it's incredible. And then there's the album's closer, the strangely fun "Gagged and Bound," which wraps things up on a lighter note that you don't see coming.

Brady's songs, though there's only four of 'em, are fantastic. "Sideroad," "Sundial," and "Maginifier" all follow the same basic path, but they're each very different. "Sundial," especially, is just an incredibly catchy tune. And the rumbling bass at the beginning is nuts. But it's "Rock Collection," the almost-ten-minute slow-and-steady rambler, that still holds the title as the only "epic" Pond song. I always forget how long it is, and it never seems like ten minutes go by when I'm listening to it. That's a good sign.

As you can tell, I really dig this record. There are a lot of Pond fans that cry because the band was never popular enough, but whatever. I'm sure the right people heard this record. I know a handful of folks who love it, and come on: this isn't the type of music that's going to sell a ton of records. I get it. In a perfect world, this would be remembered as one of the best records of the 90's. And it should be. It's on my list. It's the band's crowing achievement, no doubt about it. It's a shame that more people don't embrace its brilliance, but I've always liked that it's my thing. Our thing. One of the best sophomore releases I can name off the top of my head.

It should be on your shelf. It'll up your taste in music just by being in your vicinity. It really is that good.

A note for Pond nerds: "Van" is a sweet song on this record that I somehow forgot to mention. If you listen to the end of "Wheel" on Pond's debut, you can hear a backwards recording of Charlie playing it on an acoustic. Nerd on.

And, yes: I have this on CD, LP, and cassette.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pond - Pond (LP, CD, 1993)

I should make a special section on this site for the albums that I own on CD, LP, and cassette. Usually when I get an album in vinyl, I'll sell the CD. But there are some - this being one of them - that I can't bring myself to part with. I want to be prepared to play them at all times, and there's usually some sentimentality involved, too. The first two Pond records would be in there, and so would some Faith No More records. The first Mr. Bungle, too. I'm sure there a few more that I'm forgetting at the moment. Anyway.

I don't clearly remember the first time I heard Pond. I always picture this record coming out in '91 or '92, because it feels like such a big part of my youth. Apparently I only had it during the last few years of high school. But I listened to it a ton. My friend had a copy of the CD that was always in his car, and we spent many an afternoon dicking around, driving while blaring this CD. It never got old. Ten songs that sounded almost like something you'd heard before, but mostly like nothing you'd ever come across.

Pond is remembered by people who don't really know what they're talking about as a "grunge" band, but I wouldn't call them that. Yeah, they rose to prominence in the NW in the early-to-mid 90's, and it's easy to slap that label on them to quickly reference their involvement in that scene, but "grunge" has dumbed-down connotations that I would never attach to Pond. Their music, even though it was never short on gristly, fuzzed-out tones, was deceptively intricate and fully reliant on melody over all else. Trying to compare the resulting sound to any other band is pointless, and in this case, that's a high compliment.

Pond was a three-piece band that sounded like a four-piece, thanks both to Charlie Campbell's dexterous fingers on the guitar, and Chris Brady's penchant for playing weird-ass semi-chords on his bass. (He would also use a bow sometimes.) And, of course, Dave Triebwasser pummeled the drums. That guy was the perfect drummer for this group. They all sound huge, but like I said, it's the precision that made it work. There were plenty of bands who tried to play loud, melodic rock, but Pond was just really fucking good at it.

The fact that Campbell and Brady's voices sound similar to the untrained ear made the whole thing even more interesting. Their harmonies were dead-on, and instead of their being a slight disconnect when one or the other took over the lead vocals (I always just assumed they sang the songs they wrote, and the vocal duties usually ended up being split down the middle - also cool) - like, say, on a Sebadoh record - you were never left with any sense that things had shifted. Tough to do, and a real testament to how well Campbell and Brady worked together.

So, yes, this is their debut, and though I bet the band considers this their finding-their-sound LP, it's full-blown awesomeness. (Quick aside - I went to see Pond in 1997, and someone yelled out "Agatha" - one of the singles from this record - and Brady made a comment about how they're "not that band anymore" and they did not play the song. Hence my assumption that they disowned this record at some point.) Trying to explain what Pond sounds like is difficult, so describing the exact merits of these songs is a little tough. They're heavy in a way, but also the sort of songs that I used to sing along to at the top of my lungs. I still can. They're catchy. And the lyrics are smart. And most of them have one-word titles like "Gone," "Wheel," "Grinned," and "Spots."

"Foamy" has always been one of my favorite tracks, especially after I found out it was about a likable prostitute. That remains one of the only songs on this record that I have any grasp of what it might be about. Although "Tree" may actually be about a tree.

If you don't own this record, you should. You can probably - sadly - find it for a dollar somewhere. I could go on forever about it. And wait until we get to their next record. I won't be able to shut up about it.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pointer Sisters - Break Out (LP, 1983)

At some point last year, I decided that the Pointer Sisters' "Jump" was one of the purest pop songs of the 1980's. I was right, of course, and apparently the feeling lingered long enough for me to remember to buy this LP the next time I was out record shopping. Was it worth the dollar I paid for it. Yep. This record's pretty sweet.

It's also got "Neutron Dance" (their other big hit), and "Automatic" (not as big of a hit). Man, I miss the 80's. A time when old people could be cool-ass pop stars. Ruth Pointer (the one on the right) became a grandmother the same year this came out. She also sang like a dude. So that's cool.

I always thought June Pointer - the one on the left with the jacked-up teeth and overall weird look - was strangely attractive. Is that right? She's dead now, so maybe it's just inappropriate.

Anyway, this is some fun-time 80's synth-pop with mad slick production. Get with it. Or don't.


Monday, June 21, 2010

PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love (CD, 1995)

If you're wondering why I didn't put this album under "H," it's because technically PJ Harvey is the name of the band, not just Polly Jean's name. Though I'm sure there's a good argument for why it could be either. I just don't wanna hear it.

To Bring You My Love is the only PJ Harvey album that I've ever fully given myself over to, and even then, it was for a limited time. I've always liked her music; I've just never loved it. Though I do enjoy this record quite a bit. I listened to it for the first time in years the other night, and it came back to me pretty quick. This really is a fantastic batch of songs, but I just have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy 'em.

The clear standouts are the immediately catchier tracks like "C'mon Billy" and "Down By the Water," but the weirder cuts like "I Think I'm a Mother" and "Teclo" are equally great once you get comfortable with them. In the end, it's Harvey's voice that really makes this thing work so well. Even though the arrangements here are a bit fuller than they are on some of her other work, her voice still steals the show.

Not sure why I could never obsess about this record like some friends of mine, but I've kept it around for 15 years, so that's gotta say something.

"Long Snake Moan"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stallion Alert! - Joey Santiago

I always wondered how Joey Santiago came up with all his sweet parts for Pixies songs. Like, did Black Francis have ideas and he told Joey what to play, or was it all him? In reading a book about the Pixies and listening to Black Francis on the Sound Opinions podcast that I linked to earlier, I found out the answer: It was all him.

Francis said Joey would take a tape of the songs the band was working on (one at a time, I think), go into a room by himself, strap headphones on, and just play along until he came up with something he liked. Apparently it would take him hours sometimes. That is awesome, because that is always how I pictured it. And I'm glad it's true.

Of course, we wouldn't be talking about it if those parts he came up with weren't so damn great. All of the members of the Pixies contributed a ton to the band (even though Black Francis wrote 99% of the songs), but it was really Santiago that brought the songs to the next level. The dude's never been given enough credit for his guitar playing. Maybe this Pixies resurgence will bring some of that.

Joey, you are a stallion.

That about does it for the Pixies. I covered the majority of their output, but there a few more songs that I wanted to mention before we move on.

"Born in Chicago" - This is a Paul Butterfield Blues Band song that the Pixies covered for the Rubáiyát: Elektra's 40th Anniversary comp that was put out in 1990. I had this on some random cassette that a friend's sister made for me in 1991, and loved the shit out of it. Still do.

"Boom Chickaboom" (sometimes spelled "Boom Chick A Boom") - An early Pixies song that never saw official release (though there is the solo acoustic demo on Frank Black Francis), but this version seems to be the best one out there. Sweet.

"I Can't Forget"
- This is a Leonard Cohen cover from the I'm Your Fan tribute that was released in 1991. Cool tune.

"Bam Thwok" - The only new Pixies song to yet be released. Kim wrote it. It sounds like The Breeders. Kind of. I liked it way more than I thought I would.

"Ain't That Pretty At All" - A Waren Zevon cover from the Enjoy Every Sandwich tribute released in 2004. Nice one.

I think that covers the most notable studio versions of random Pixies tracks. There's also a ton of bootlegs of demos and other weird shit floating around the web, so if you're into that sort of thing, you can go nuts.

There's been word that the Pixies will be going into the studio this year to record new material. I remain cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stallion Alert Book Review: Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies by Josh Frank and Caryn Ganz (2006)

I had been meaning to read this book after I first read excerpts from it in Spin a few years back, but I forgot about it. Getting back into the music of the Pixies over the last few weeks jogged my memory, and I picked this thing up and read the shit out of it.

Other than the authors' annoying insistence on making it very clear that there is no "the" in front of "Pixies" (the title of the book is just the beginning), this book is fantastic. (And yes, we get it: the band is just called "Pixies." But everyone calls them the Pixies when speaking casually. Don't capitalize the "the" and move on. Sheesh.) It's exactly what it says it is: a history of the band told through the people who lived it. The full band participated, along with 4AD staffers, members of fellow bands (Throwing Muses, most notably), producers, friends - a ton of people.

And though there is perhaps a bit too much focus on the inner workings of the Boston scene that quickly spit out the Pixies after their formation, there's a ton of inside info pertaining to the inner workings of the band itself, as well. Though there's nothing mind-blowingly new here that superfans haven't heard before, there's plenty of cool stories of little things that happened here and there along the way that I had no idea about.

It's easy to forget that the band was together for such a short time, but this book really puts that into perspective, and gives you a plethora of reasons why they broke up when they did. There's the usual flogging of Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, which I cold do without, but there's also some great stories of how those records became what they were, and I was happy about that.

This book is probably for the more serious fans, but if you consider yourself one of those, you'll love it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Pixies - Acoustic: Live in Newport (2006)

The post-reunion Pixies DVDs just keep coming. Thankfully, they're all different enough to be worth watching. Think this is the last one in my collection, and it's possibly my favorite.

Early footage of the Pixies reunion shows confirmed that their start was a little shaky, but by the time a couple years had passed they felt confident enough to do a one-off acoustic show at the Newport Folk Festival. They're out of their comfort zone for this set, and it shows, but that's half the fun of it. The songs here translate extremely well for the most part, and the ones that don't end up being really interesting. As far as the setlist goes there's nothing too surprising, and most of these songs are the ones that Black Francis uses an acoustic guitar for when they play them in their normal set. Well, maybe not most. A lot of them.

But seeing Kim Deal playing with a huge acoustic bass and watching Lovering trying to restrain himself are both slightly hilarious exercises to witness. Overall, the set is a little shaky, but it's clear they rehearsed and planned to give it a good go. And the whole thing is bizarre to witness: they're on the beach, it's light outside, and they're more subdued than they've ever been. It's worth it just to see that.

"River Euphrates/Velouria"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stallion Alert at the Movies: loudQUIETloud - A Film About the Pixies (2006)

I've watched this movie three or four times since I've owned it, and though it's not the most exciting documentary in the world, I still love it. And I think maybe it's the fact that it reveals the members of the Pixies to be so quiet, incompatible, and mostly normal that makes this movie so interesting. The way they carry themselves and the music they make could not be more different. And yeah, they're playing songs that were written 20 years previous, but I think that was the deal even then.

Anyway, this is a documentary about the band's first reunion tour, and it's done by a couple of dudes who really are fans of the band, and you can tell. Each member gets equal time, the group is shown both onstage and off (mostly off), and you really get a feel for why they're doing what they're doing. Sure, they probably hoped for more action (a minor incident involving David Lovering missing a cue onstage is played up for dramatic effect), but with the whole band being settled and mostly sober, there was never much chance of that. Still, Kim Deal is nuts even without the drugs and booze, so she makes for some fun interviews.

The real thing you get from this movie, and the thing makes me happiest about this band getting back together, is that they finally get the praise they were due. You get the vibe from the band members - and I don't think they're being modest - that they really didn't think the Pixies getting back together was going to be that big of a deal. Meanwhile it's six years later (!) and they're still touring. So to see the look on Lovering's face while he's back behind the kit in front of all those people - after being basically homeless a few months earlier - is really cool.

There's about a half-hour of bonus footage in the extras that are great, too, though it would have been cool to have more rehearsal/live footage available to watch as full songs. But that's a mild complaint.

Another cool movie for Pixies fans. Not a ton of backstory, so if you're looking for old stuff, it's not really here (why won't someone make the definitive Pixies documentary?), but this does a great job of capturing moments that we never thought would happen.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Pixies - Live at the Paradise in Boston (2006)

I picked this up for a budget price from Amazon, and didn't really have high hopes for it. A live Pixies show, post-reunion: cool, but how cool can it be? As usual, my presupposition made me eat my words. Or it would have, if I had verbally expressed my low hopes for this thing.

As it turns out, this is a DVD not only worth seeing, but worth owning. This is the Pixies two years (ish) after their initial reunion, and they sound much tighter than they did on their initial tour. So that's good. Also good: this show takes place in a tiny club, and the intimate setting not only allows for great camera angles and sweet sound setup, but it also works to make the band a lot more gabby. The interaction with the small audience is quite welcome when you consider that this is a group that is known for saying very little during their live sets. (Well, Black Francis is, I guess. He talks quite a bit in this thing. More than Kim, even. That's the point I'm trying to make.)

But the best part here is the song selection, and the running order of the set. To give you an idea of how much they were trying to mix things up for this gig, check the first three songs: "La La Love You," "Winterlong," and "Into the White." Awesome move opening with the deep cuts/b-sides. They even fuck up "La La Love You" the first time around and start it over. All in good fun. They follow those three with "Vamos," which is usually reserved for the end of the set, and then proceed to play a great mix of the usual suspects and tracks that, to this point, had rarely seen resurrection. I was very happy to see them do "Planet of Sound," "The Sad Punk," and "Allison."

A fun show all around, and an interesting environment to see them in. Much cooler than I thought it would be. And the small crowd is full of ass-outs, so that's fairly entertaining as well.

This disc also includes, in its bonus features, footage from a Pixies show in Boston in October of 1986. The quality is grainy and a lot of the songs aren't full versions, but the fact that this even exists is miraculous. Plus, they do "Boom Chickaboom," "Rock A My Soul," and early version of "Build High" and "Down to the Well," which are all sweet.

A solid DVD, for sure.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Pixies Sell Out: 2004 Reunion Tour (2005)

Clocking in at almost two and a half hours, this is one long-ass DVD of live Pixies, reunion style.

The majority of the footage is from one show in France, a 28-song set that occurred (from what I can tell) fairly early in the round of reunion shows. The group's a little rusty, with FB flubbing lines here and there, and Joey Santiago not really sounding quite up to snuff with his lead parts. And really, that ends up being the fun of it. The band seems nervous, and watching them trying to remember all of the old songs is actually fun.

And the songs are certainly old. Of the 28, there's only two from their post-Doolittle catalog ("Velouria" and "Subbacultcha"), which is, for me, a letdown. I felt the same when I saw them on the tour, but considering we never thought we'd see the band again, you can't really complain.

Thankfully, the bonus features make up for it a bit. Pulling performances from seven other shows, there's 15 more songs total, including sweet versions of "Planet of Sound," "Is She Weird," "U-Mass," and the relatively random "Into the White." These bits are interspersed with interviews with a couple of dudes who worked with/for the band in the early days and then joined them again for the reunion. Some cool info there.

The audio and video quality of the whole thing is top-notch, and it does a fine job of documenting the early stages of the band's reunion. Couple it with loudQUIETloud (which we'll get to), and you've got yourself the whole damn package.

"I Bleed"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Pixies (2004)

Released in conjunction with Wave of Mutilation: Best of Pixies, this DVD features four distinct sections, all worth watching if you're a Pixies fan.

The first is a 15-song live set from May of 1988 that captures the band in a Surfer Rosa-era, semi-pro-shot set from London. The footage is of a very watchable quality, and seeing the band do a full show at this point in their career is fantastic. It's about a half-hour long, features "Hey" before it was released, and finds the band seeming completely invigorated and genuinely excited about playing. Incredible piece of history.

The second is a collection of the band's six videos that they released when they were together, as well as the promotional clip for "Debaser" that was pulled together from archive footage for the best-of release. That video is mostly pointless and often corny, but the other clips are great. The Pixies clearly hated doing videos, so the resulting output is, depending on how you see it, either frustrating or completely indicative of the way the band thought and acted. (The "Velouria" video, nothing more than the band running down a pile of rocks in slow-motion, is perhaps the most notorious of these here's-your-fucking-video spots.)

My favorite is probably the clip that combines "Dig for Fire" and "Allison," which starts with them donning motorcycle gear, moves to them riding in sidecars with grizzled bikers, and ends with them playing "Allison" live to an empty stadium. Though I also enjoy the "Alec Eiffel" video quite a bit, as well.

The third section of the DVD is called "On the Road," and it features home video footage of the band shot on one of their early European tours. Purely for the hardcore Pixies nerd, but there's some really cool shit here if you're into it. At 30 minutes, it's a nice watch.

The fourth and final section is "Gouge," a mini-doc about the band that has interviews with Bono, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, David Bowie, and the band themselves (except for Kim Deal), among others. The interviews are cool, but for some reason the only clips they show of the band and the only music they play is from the live show from the first section of the DVD. So when they start talking about Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, they've got nothing. Though they still intersperse the discussions with songs from the live show, even though they're not on those records. Very strange, considering that there are videos from songs of both of those eras on the DVD as well, so there doesn't seem to be any rights issue. Though I don't really understand how that works.

Like I said though, the interviews are great, especially the ones with Joey Santiago and David Lovering. There's some great insight into where the band was at during the different phases of their short existence.

I am ashamed to say that I just saw this for the first time last week. Not sure what I was waiting for. I'm ready to watch that live set again right now.

Here's a clip from it:

"Something Against You"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pixies - Pixies (CD, 2002)

I was completely unaware of the "Purple Tape" for a long time, but when I found out about it I was understandably intrigued. This CD compiles the nine songs that weren't taken from that tape and put on Come On Pilgrim.

And while this is definitely a must-have for serious Pixies fans, it's kind of a bummer that it's only 16 minutes long. Still, there are some things here that no Pixies ultra-fan can live without. Eh, fuck it: let's just break it down.

"Broken Face" - Not as strong as the Surfer Rosa version, but that's only because Black Francis sounds strangely tired on it. Still cool as shit.

"Build High" - The original verision! Hadn't changed much by the time they re-recorded for a Trompe Le Monde-era b-side, but this version is certainly much looser.

"Rock A My Soul" - Oh my lord, a previously unheard Pixies song. This is what everyone was looking forward to when this thing came out. Is it mind-blowing? Nah. There's a reason this is the only song here that never even made b-side status. Not that it's not nice. Because it is. Definitely a solid Pixies short one.

"Down to the Well" - The original version of this song, that would eventually make its way to Bossanova. The vocal feel is different and it's not as explosive, but I love this one.

"Break My Body" - A little bit different arrangement than the Surfer Rosa version (no intro), but otherwise it's basically the same.

"I'm Amazed" - Here's why we buy these things. There's a middle section on here that didn't make it onto the album version of the song. It's short, but it's really cool to hear.

"Here Comes Your Man" - This is another big reason fans need to have this: the original version of the Pixies' poppiest song. It's not quite as polished, and a great reference point.

"Subbacultcha" - A crazy version of this track, which wouldn't see the light until Trompe Le Monde. This is another one that contains extra shit - an short bridge and eventual outro thing that would end up being the basis for "Distance Equals Rate Times Time" from Trompe Le Monde. Really weird, and fascinating to see how the songwriting process works.

"In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)" - Probably the least strong version of this song that exists, but it makes a nice little ending to this odd-ass batch.

If you're a big-time Pixies fan, you'll want this. But man, I'm having a hard time shelling out 30 bucks for the vinyl version, knowing how short it is and how often I'll listen to it...


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pixies - Complete 'B' Sides (CD, 2001)

I was a little bit pissed when this came out, because I had done a great job of compiling all of these songs on my own. So, the collector in me was annoyed. But, it's such a great group of songs that I couldn't really harbor any ill will. And it is nice to have them all in CD quality on one compilation, as I had some of the tracks on vinyl.

And best of all, the songs are arranged chronologically and Black Francis/Frank Black provides a little commentary on each one in the liner notes. Awesome. This has gotta be one of the strongest b-side comps ever.

"River Euphrates" - This is the re-recorded version from the "Gigantic" single, which was also redone for the 12" release. I kind of wish they would have included that as well, but their attention to detail when it comes to sticking to the title of the comp makes me equally happy. This version of "River Euphrates" is quite possibly better than the album cut.

"Vamos (Live)" - A solid recording of a live version of "Vamos" that features Joey Santiago going nuts and David Lovering just beating the shit out of the drums. Incredible.

"In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)(Live)" - I mentioned in my previous post that this live recording was the only version of this song available (also on the "Gigantic" single) until the BBC album was released. That was fine, because this one makes for an intense few minutes.

"Manta Ray" - In the liner notes, FB downplays the quality of this tune, but I've always loved it. It's quite simple, but the melody in the verses is not to be messed with.

"Weird At My School" - Apparently this was an early Pixies song that didn't show up until it ended up as a b-side for the "Monkey Gone to Heaven" single. Frantic, two minutes long: everything you want from the band.

"Dancing the Manta Ray" - A sort of lumbering jam with Black Francis' vocals morphed into creepiness. Fun.

"Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)" - Not sure why the slow version (this one) of this song has become the favorite of fans, but I guess it has. I may have mentioned it earlier, but my friends and I used to listen to the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack so we could hear this song and Soundgarden's "Heretic." Oh, the early 90's.

"Into the White" - I think I said earlier that "Gigantic" was the only track on which Kim Deal sang lead with the Pixies, and if I didn't say "album track," I should have. She has two lead vocal performances on b-sides, and this is the first. They used to play this live all the time, and it's a great song. Uncommonly long one at almost five minutes.

"Bailey's Walk" - Doolittle-era b-side that could have probably fit in on that record. Francis sounds fantastic on this track. All crackly and shit.

"Make Believe" - David Lovering's lead-vocal dedication to Debbie Gibson. Seriously. A more un-Pixies Pixies song you will not find, and it is all kinds of awesome.

"I've Been Waiting for You" - Kim Deal's singing lead again, and this time it's on the first of two Neil Young covers that show up here. One of my favorite songs on this comp. Santiago dials it.

"The Thing" - I mentioned this in my Bossanova entry as the last part of "The Happening," cut away from the rest of the track. In the liner notes, FB calls it a "re-mix of the outro section of "The Happening" from Bossanova, but it really sounds like a whole different recording to me.

"Velvety Instrumental Version" - One of the few Pixies songs that is full-on instrumental. It would later show up on the Frank Black album Devil's Workshop with vocals, but at this point, none even existed. The title, it seems, was a bit misleading. Sweet track.

"Winterlong" - Another Neil Young cover, and though this is a fine song, I prefer the previous one. Cute little ditty, though. Almost too cute...

"Santo" - This was one of the first Pixies b-sides I heard as a teenager. I've never been able to make any sense of this one (shocker), but I've always loved it.

"Theme from NARC" - A cover of the theme from the video game. Not technically instrumental (Francis says "Theme from NARC" a few times), but pretty much. Awesome idea, awesome song.

"Build High" - I bought the "Alec Eiffel" single that this was on, and always wanted to know the story behind it. Turns out it's really old Pixies song that they finally decided to throw down at this point. Bit of a hoedown.

"Evil Hearted You" - Another cover, this time done completely in Spanish. Beautiful tune, very mellow for the Pixies. But, of course, it works.

"Letter to Memphis (Instrumental)" - Just the album version with the vocals taken out. Nice enough, but I never really understood the point of this one.

All in all, an incredible batch of songs, arranged in order, which again, is fantastic. So much to like here. This thing deserves to be lumped in with their studio albums. Yep, I said it.

"Make Believe"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pixies - Pixies at the BBC (CD, 1998)

Follwing the mostly pointless Death to the Pixies best-of comp that came out in 1997, this was the second release in the post-Pixies, pre-reunion era. Not sure why they waited so long to put it out, but it's cool that they did.

The music on this disc is, of course, great. Frustratingly, the sequencing is shit. It's a compilation that just begs to be rearranged in your iTunes. There are 15 tracks here, culled from six different sessions. Why not just put them in chronological order? Instead, some of the songs that were recorded the earliest are at the end, and the ones that were recorded the latest are just floating around in the middle, not even near each other. There are other issues along these same lines, but they're not worth explaining.

I will never understand the thinking behind a track listing like this. Anyway.

There's some cool shit on here. The band's cover of the Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" is here, as well as a really strange version of "Is She Weird," which is probably the most intriguing song for me. They also blaze through sweet versions of "Dead" and "There Goes My Gun," and hearing them do "Ana" live in the studio is phenomenal.

"Caribou" and "Levitate Me" are both almost as good as the studio versions, and a few random b-sides are here, too. "Manta Ray" is a great Pixies non-album cut, and the version here is solid. It's also nice to have a decent recording of "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)," which had previously only been released as a Surfer Rosa b-side in a live version.

All the songs here are fantastic, and the raw recording quality just makes it that much more enjoyable. "Letter to Memphis," heard without all the studio trickery and thick production, is still incredible, but in a completely different way. Such a great song.

This thing's not for the casual Pixies fan, but for people who love all their records, it's a must-own.

"In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pixies - Trompe Le Monde (LP, 1991)

This was the only Pixies album I bought upon its release, and I really could not have been more excited. I immediately loved it, and continue to do so to this day. The band brought back some of the rougher edges that had been smoothed out on Bossanova, and Black Francis wrote some incredibly strong tunes for this record.

Apparently it's not everyone's favorite, but I could easily make an argument for this being the band's best record. Between this record and Frank Black's first two solo records, you've got the golden era of the man whose real name is Charles Thompson. I could go deep into into my Eric Drew Feldman theory right now (he plays on all three of the records), but I'll spare you that. So let's get to the songs and why they're so great.

"Trompe Le Monde" - This was the only Pixies record that took its title from the name of a song and not a lyric from a song, and they just went ahead and put it right out front. And that's where it should be. A great tune to start off with.

Random: In the break in this song, Black Francis sing/talks: "We went to the store and got something great/ Which samples this song from Washington State." A friend of mine in high school had this weird Radio Shack megaphone that not only amplified your voice, but also played college fight songs. Among them was the one from Washington State, and it played it just like the little blips that come after that lyric in the song. We were convinced that this megaphone is what they were talking about. I still am.

Also: This version of the band playing the song on Letterman remains bizarre and awesome.

"Planet of Sound" - If anyone was concerned about whether the Pixies were getting soft, this should have assuaged those fears. What a badass tune. "This ain't no rock & roll town/ This ain't no fuckin' around." Exactly.

"Alec Eiffel" - What an incredible melody (as usual), and Kim Deal really makes it work on this one. One of the singles from this record, and it's definitely one of the more accessible tunes.

"The Sand Punk" - This track contains one of my favorite Pixies lyrics ever: "And evolving from the sea/ Would not be too much time for me/ To walk beside you in the sun." It really doesn't get much better than that. Love this song.

"Head On" - The second of the only two covers that made their way onto proper Pixies albums. It's a fine song, but I prefer their original material.

"U-Mass" - Somewhere along the line this became a Pixies head-bangin' classic, and I'm fairly certain it's more tongue-in-cheek than people realize. Again: great lyrics.

"Palace of the Brine" - One of two minute-and-a-half ass-kickers on this record. This song is untouchable.

"Letter to Memphis" - I always think of this one and "Palace of the Brine" as a one-two combo that should not be separated, because the break between the two songs in short and seamless and they really work well as a pair. Not sure if this is supposed to be a love song in the traditional sense, but it sure works as one.

"Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons" - Leave it to Black Francis to write a frighteningly beautiful song about a bird dreaming that he flies to Mars. These lyrics are insanely good, and the buildup in this song is flawless.

"Space (I Believe In)" - One of the longer songs on the record, and though I certainly like it, it's not one of my favorites. The end is great, though.

"Subbacultcha" - I never had any idea that this was one of the earliest tunes that Black Francis wrote for the band, and I was a bit surprised to find out that it was. It fits in fine with the rest of the songs here, though it remains one of their weirder tunes, which is saying something.

"Distance Equals Rate Times Time" - I always forget the name of this song because "D equals R times T" is mentioned in "Space (I Believe In)" and it mixes me up. This is the other minute-and-a-half ass-kicker on this record and it will knock you over.

"Lovely Day" - Apparently not one of the band's most enduring songs, but I always felt it deserved to be. Wish I had the faintest idea what this song is about, because I bet it's interesting. "You will be my martian honey all the day" makes me very curious.

"Motorway to Roswell" - Black Francis was still obsessed with aliens (and would continue to be), and this song seems to tell the fractured tale of an outer space visitor who ended up somewhere he didn't want to be. It's the longest song on the record, and it deserves the extra space.

"The Navajo Know" - The last song on the last Pixies record, and though I don't know why, it seems like a fitting send-off. It's got a great little melody, obscure-as-shit lyrics, and makes little sense. I love the production on this track.

It's possible that I've listened to this LP more than any other Pixies record. I had it on cassette right when it came out, and it got a lot of play. Tons. Sometimes I still think this is my all-time favorite Pixies album, but that remains a tough call to make. I guess it's safe to say that it's right up there with all their other ones.

And this would be it for the band who pioneered alternative rock and then broke up before they could enjoy the landscape they created. I always thought that was a sweet move. Don't worry, though - there's a bunch more Pixies stuff coming. Settle in.

"Head On"/"Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pixies - Bossanova (LP, 1990)

Some years back, I was talking with a friend who I went to high school with. We were listening to Bossanova in his car. He said, "Do you remember back in high school when everybody said that Bossanova was the one Pixies record that wasn't very good?" I said I remembered that. He said, "What was up with that? This album's incredible."

And indeed it is. But that was the word on Bossanova after it came out: "It's OK, just not nearly as good as Doolittle. Bossanova was the last Pixies album I bought before Trompe Le Monde came out, and though I didn't really put it off, I was hesitant, because everyone framed it as a huge disappointment. Then I bought it, loved it, and wasn't sure what the fuck everyone was talking about. Yeah, there's a lot less of the loud-quiet-loud dynamic on this one (mostly in favor of just plain loud) and the drums sound like machine guns, but if there exists a sorely underrated Pixies record, it's this one.

Maybe people were put off by the surfer-girls-in-outer-space theme that runs through this thing, but I always thought that was quite charming. And though this record is notorious for being the one that almost broke up the band, maybe that's what makes it so wonderfully tense-sounding. This is usually where people start complaining about Kim Deal not singing enough on the late Pixies records, but I've never understood that. She's all over this thing.

Like all the other Pixies records, this one has often been my favorite. In fact, right now, it's probably holding the title. "Is She Weird," "Ana," and "Allison" remain some of the band's best tracks. And this thing is sequenced beautifully, just like all the other Pixies records. Don't think I've mentioned that yet, but they really were masters at putting the songs in order. I can't picture their albums switching the tracks up and being any better than they are. With that in mind, let's start at the top:

"Cecilia Ann" - There were only two cover songs that made their way onto proper Pixies records, and this one's the first. Originally a straight-up surf tune, the version here is obviously way more electric and way bigger. A great choice to set the stage for what's to come. This also holds the distinction of being the only instrumental song on any of the Pixies' studio albums.

"Rock Music" - The title only begins to describe the blistering menace of this tune. The lyrics are fairly indecipherable on the album version, and they didn't bother to print them in liner notes. Bold move. You can sort of make them out in live versions. They make little sense. Incredible song.

"Velouria" - One of the Pixies' more blatant stabs at semi-mainstream appeal. Not my favorite song, but it does have a ton of charm. And the bridge is great.

"Allison" - Black Francis' shout-out to Mose Allison, which also works well as a love song. This melody is unstoppable. I have a promo single for this song that contains this song and this song only. It is one minute and eighteen seconds long.

"Is She Weird" - There was a bootleg video of a Pixies show in 1991 at the Brixton Academy that I used to rent all the time from a local video store. The whole thing was amazing, but their performance of this song was always the highlight. "Your heart is ripshit" is just a staggering lyric. One of my favorite Pixies songs. Among many.

"Ana" - This is the one with the tricky lyrics that spell out "surfer" with the first letter of each line. That novelty always struck me as odd for this band, but this song is so beautiful that I was never paid it much mind.

"All Over the World" - The last song on the first side of Bossanova, and easily the band's longest song. From a group known for keeping things around the two-minute mark, getting into the five-minute-plus realm was certainly unexpected. I've always thought it was pretty cool that they only did it once. And this song deserved it - the ending is sweet.

"Dig for Fire" - I'm pretty sure this was an old song that got resurrected for this album (much like "Subbacultcha" would on their next record), and it was probably a smart move, because it fits in perfectly with this group of songs. The single version is different than the album version. No idea why.

"Down to the Well" - Where Black Francis gets all guttural with his wailing and screams out "I can hardly wait - Betty" like no one else could. Awesome.

"The Happening" - On the "Velouria" single, there's a song called "The Thing" which is a standalone version of the second half of this song (though a different recording). Wish I knew more about how this thing got put together, but I don't. I do know that this is one of many songs Black Francis wrote (or would write) about aliens landing here and how he would like to hang out with them. ("They've come so far I've lived this long/ At least I must just go and say hello.")

"Blown Away" - Another song with a great hook that is further proof that the Pixies were masterful at the two-minute pop song.

"Hang Wire" - The song from which the album takes its title, and another one where Black Francis gets all blood-curdly with the vocals. Kim Deal is great on this one.

"Stormy Weather" - It is time for stormy weather. Indeed.

"Havalina" - Every time Kim Deal sings "Arizonaaaa," I still get chills. A legitimately pretty song, and a great one to close the album out with.

I have a very early copy of this record on vinyl that contains the rarely-seen 10" booklet on the inside. A few notes on this:

This is the only Pixies album to contain photos of the band on the inside.

The booklet does not contain the lyrics to "Rock Music," "Havalina," or "Havalina," but for some reason, it has the lyrics for "Make Believe," a song that was another b-side of the "Velouria" single. Weird.

This record is incredible. You know that.

"Dig for Fire"/"Allison"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pixies - Zurich 1989 (CD, 1992)

The date on this CD is 1992, but chronologically the show would go here, so that's where I'm putting it. It's a bootleg, so I'm breaking all the rules.

Bootleg CDs were hot shit when I was a teenager (I spoke a little about that here), and this was one of the precious few that I got my grubby hands on. I think it was a gift, but now I can't rightly remember. However I got a hold of it, this one was a great choice.

Recorded in June of 1989, this is Pixies in their prime. Though the back of this CD says that the show was recorded during the Surfer Rosa tour, this was actually two months after Doolittle came out, and the band plays every song on that record except for "Silver," "La La Love You," and strangely enough, "Here Comes Your Man." So that's 12 tracks. The other ten are mix of stuff from their first two records. The live versions of "Vamos" and "Isla De Encanta" are spectacular. In fact, this whole show is damn good.

The band sounds really into it, and the recording (which, from what I can tell, was bootlegged off the radio - Kim Deal keeps saying "We're on the radio!"), while not crystal clear, is plenty listenable. In classic Pixies fashion, there's little talk between songs (aside from Kim rambling, but the rest of the band always cuts her off by starting the next song), so it's just 22 tracks of live Pixies from 1989, and hardly a bit of filler.

I'm sure this is readily available on the internet these days, but back before the internet made the obscure accessible to anyone, this was a rare find. And I've always loved it for that, but mostly because the actual performance here is a great one. Pixies in '89. Tough to beat.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pixies - Doolittle (CD, 1989)

This was definitely where it all started for me. I was in a band in high school, and for some beginning-of-the-year assembly thing, we teamed up with these other kids who were in a different band to try and cover a few songs. (This would have been the summer before my sophomore year.) They had a cassette of songs they wanted to cover, and the ones I was sent home with that I can remember are "Pictures of Matchstick Men" by Camper Van Beethoven, and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and (I think) "Hey" by the Pixies. I acted cool like I had heard the band before, but I hadn't. And I loved it.

I ended up somehow pussing out of the gig (I think my girlfriend didn't want me to do it or something - I've always felt like an idiot about that), but I wanted to hear more of this band, and I went out and bought the cassette of Doolittle. And that was that: I was hooked. This was the coolest music I'd ever heard.

Doolittle has gone on to be the defining Pixies album, and though I could never say that it's their best (though I have felt that way at certain points), I do understand why it's their most popular. It's got their most accessible song ("Here Comes Your Man"), and is generally a little bit easier to swallow than their other material. I still love this record, though these days I'm probably more likely to grab my copy of Bossanova when I'm walking out the door than this one. But I listened to Doolittle so much when I was a teenager that every single lyric and nuance is still imprinted in my brain. Let's break it down.

"Debaser" - If ever a song defined the Pixies, this was probably it. It's melodic, angry, gross and beautiful all at the same time. Still an incredible song.

"Tame" - This one takes the quiet-to-loud thing to extremes: it literally goes from a whisper to a scream and then back again. If this song were longer than two minutes it might not work, but they wisely keep it short. And the breathing thing at the end is legendary.

"Wave of Mutilation" - Somewhere along the line, the "UK Surf" version (the slower one) of this song became the preferred choice of Black Francis, but I still love the original. Some of the best lyrics Black Francis ever wrote.

"I Bleed" - Kim Deal really gets the job done on this one, not only plodding out the bass line, but also steadily chiming the melody from way in the background. A fantastic song.

"Here Comes Your Man" - Pixies sounding like, I don't know - Paul Simon? Black Francis wrote this song when we was a teenager, and that is really impressive. The song is catchy as shit, and though it's easily the poppiest Pixies song, it's still dark if you scratch the surface.

"Dead" - One of my top three favorite songs on this record, right up there with "Mr. Grieves" and the incomparable "Gouge Away." The verses to this song are just flat-out brilliant.

"Monkey Gone to Heaven" - Easily my least-favorite Pixies song. Still great live because Joey Santiago is consistently awesome on it.

"Mr. Grieves" - The song that contains the lyric from which the album title is derived, and like I said, one of the best songs on this whole thing. Try to find the chorus in this song. I'm not sure there is one.

"Crackity Jones" - A perfect song to come after "Mr. Grieves." The band always had at least one minute-and-a-half wacko track on their albums, and this is one of 'em.

"La La Love You" - David Lovering sang a couple of songs with the Pixies, but this is the only one that ended up on a proper album. Could have just as easily been a b-side, but I think it's great for this record. Remains one of the more random Pixies songs. Listen to it on headphones - there's some weird shit going on in the background.

"No. 13 Baby" - This song always feels to me like it should have been on Bossanova, but it's great on this record. The longest song of the bunch, and it features sweet lyrics and sweet drum breaks by Lovering.

"There Goes My Gun" - What a chorus on this one. The verses just seem like placeholders waiting to get to it.

"Hey" - The favorite Pixies song of people who don't really listen to the band. That sounds asshole-ish. But I think I mean it. Still a great song, though I prefer the more straightforward stuff on this record these days for some reason.

"Silver" - Along with "La La Love You," the other random-ass song on this record. Slide guitar by Kim Deal, bass by Lovering, and a fantastic melody. The last time Kim Deal would get a co-writing credit.

"Gouge Away" - This song has lost a little of its power for me over the last twenty years, but barely. "Missy aggravation/Some sacred questions" remains a great group of words. Just a phenomenal song, and a perfect one to end this record.

Black Francis did an interview in January with the guys from Chicago Public Radio, dissecting Doolittle and providing some pretty cool stories about the album's origins and recording process. Nerd out, podcast style, here.

Still need to get this one on vinyl...

"Dead"/"I Bleed"

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pixies - Interview Picture Disc (LP, 1989)

The only image I could find of this record was of one that had been turned into a clock. So that would explain the hands there.

I bought this LP while I was in high school, after randomly finding it in a record store and convincing myself that it was a highly collectible import that would one day be very valuable. (It says "Limited Edition" on it, after all.) It remains a rarity, but as far as I can tell, it's of little value to anyone except hardcore collectors. Still, I've always thought it was a pretty cool record, and I've held onto it for the past twenty-or-so years.

I sort of understand the making-a-clock-out-of-it thing, because it's definitely more fun to look at than it is to listen to. The interview itself is with Black Francis and a foreign journalist (Yugoslavian, maybe?), and the dude speaks dicey English and spends a lot of time either searching for words or talking about himself. Francis drops a few interesting gems here and there (he says he "doesn't read," preferring the "cinema"), but for the most part he sounds put out. It must have been done backstage at a show, because some other band is soundchecking during almost the entire thing, and it's really distracting.

But like I said, a cool record to have. I've always felt like I should just frame it or something. Songs from Doolittle are mentioned, but I'm not exactly sure when this interview was done. '89 is a guess.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pixies - Surfer Rosa (LP, 1988)

I've been listening to Surfer Rosa for 20 years, and I still love it. I've listened to it four or five times in the last few days, and it still does it for me. You could probably find thousands of people to tell you the same thing. It's just that good.

We can skip all the Steve Albini/they played with steel picks production crap, because I've never really cared about any of that. This album does sound amazing, but it's the songs that do it. The style hasn't changed a whole lot since Come On Pilgrim, but if anything, the band sounds tighter and more assured. I read something recently that described Joey Santiago's guitar-playing as "haphazard" or "erratic" or something of the like, and I don't think that could be farther from the truth. He may not be technically perfect on this record, but none of 'em are. Santiago's role in this band cannot be downplayed. He was a huge part of the sound, and he really brings everything together on this record. And all the other ones.

Like the other Pixies records, I started listening to this one in high school, and the first time I heard it, I was hooked. My girlfriend bought me an import copy on vinyl (that I still have), and it has been one of the hearts of my record collection ever since. That was a great move on her part. Let's get to the songs.

"Bone Machine" - It's really tough to get across how much this song rules. "I make you break/You make me hard/Your Irish Skin/Looks Mexican" continues to be an incredible lyric. Perfect track to start this album off with.

"Break My Body" - Another song about bones, but this time it's about breaking them. An incredible chorus, and the "somebody get hurt" vamp at the end is sweet.

"Something Against You" - David Lovering just beats the shit out of the drums on this song. And it is awesome. Also awesome: the distorted vocals.

"Broken Face" - Another song about breaking things, possibly bones. I always forget that this song is only a minute and a half long. Short and nutso.

"Gigantic" - In high school, the story was that this song was about Kim Deal blowing a black Jesus. Pretty sure that's not true. This isn't one of my favorite songs on the record, but it's still a good one. Hoping for more songs with Kim Deal singing lead? Better check out the Breeders.

"River Euphrates" - This song never came across quite as good live, but it's an amazing track. Joey Santiago sounds menacing on this one, and the lyrics are bleak and confusing. Nothing wrong with that. One of my favorite songs on this LP.

"Where Is My Mind?" - I'm officially sick of this song, though I remember when I wasn't, and I really loved it. Somewhere along the line this became the trademark Pixies track (was it the Fight Clubfactor?), and it remains their show-closer.

"Cactus" - David Bowie's favorite Pixies song. And well it should be, because it's crazy-good. A slow sort of chugger, which is a cool change of pace at this point in the album. And the lyrics are insane.

"Tony's Theme" - This has always struck me as one of the more mysterious Pixies tunes, as it seems incongruous with the rest of their material, at least lyrics-wise. But Black Francis sounds great on this tune, sounding like he's screaming from the other room.

"Oh My Golly!" - This is the "Isla de Encanta" of Surfer Rosa and it is nuts. All the Spanglish you can handle, and the title for the record is tucked in there somewhere. This song will make your head split open.

"Vamos" - The version of "Vamos" on this LP is over a minute longer than the one on Come On Pilgrim, and as I said before, I think I prefer it. When the guitars kick in, it's just too much. And Santiago really nails it on this version.

"I'm Amazed" - Not counting the field-hockey back-and-forth at the beginning of this song, it's not even a minute and a half long, which is perfect. Kim Deal makes it on this one with her backing vocals.

"Brick is Red" - The forgotten Pixies song, which is a shame, because it's so darn pretty. I've never seen footage of them playing this live, and never heard it on a bootleg. I'm sure they played it on the Surfer Rosa tour, but after that it seemed to fade away. A great, great song with a weird structure that they wouldn't visit again.

Trying to pick my favorite Pixies record is pointless, but this one is obviously right up there. But they all are, so that really makes no point at all. I love it - that's my point. One of the most important rock records ever, I'd say.

"Bone Machine"

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pixies - Come On Pilgrim (LP, 1987)

Here we go with the Pixies. Settle in: it's going be at least a week before this is over. At least.

The Pixies were such a part of my teenage years that it's hard for me to imagine being 16 without them. Strangely, the year I turned 16 was the same year they broke up. Frank Black had already put out two solo records by the time I was done with high school. I spent the time before they put out their last record (Trompe Le Monde) playing catch-up, and spent the time right after that record came out enjoying them while they lasted. We'll get to that.

For now, let's talk about this record. I was 11 in 1987, so clearly I didn't get in on the ground floor with the Pixies. I didn't hear them until my freshman year of high school, which would have made it 1990-ish. That's when I started listening to Doolittle, and eventually backtracked my way to this, their first EP. A lot of kids probably have the same story to tell. Surfer Rosa was around, but it was Doolittle that really got to the kids. I think. Me, at least.

Come On Pilgrim is eight songs, selected from the band's demo tape (the infamous "Purple Tape") and cleaned up for major release. It's often overshadowed by the crazy impact that Surfer Rosa had, and has sometimes been packaged with Surfer Rosa on CD releases, which is convenient, but I've always felt it should stand alone as it's own thing. Because it is. And it is fantastic. I'm going to have to song-by-song the Pixies, aren't I? Yes, yes I am. I'll regret it if I don't.

"Caribou" - The first Pixies song on the first Pixies release is really a perfect way to ease into the band: You get the wiry guitar tone right from the beginning, you find out that David Lovering can only play at one volume, and you realize you've never heard a voice like the one that's coming out of this yelping dude handling the vocals. And what a melody.

"Vamos" - I've always preferred the version of "Vamos" that's on Surfer Rosa to this one, but just barely. The quintessential early Pixies song. Joey Santiago just going nuts.

"Isla De Encanta" - The most rocking-est song on this release, and a great example of Black Francis' obsession with his own version of broken Spanish. I tried to get my best friend to use this song as his homecoming theme song in high school (he would have walked out to it in front of the whole school), but he wussed out. What a wimp. They've played this one here and there on their reunion tours, but not much.

"Ed is Dead" - As with most early Pixies songs, I have no idea what this one is about, but it is one of the first ones to mention surfing ("She's just looking for the perfect wave"), which would become a theme of sorts in their songs. I've always loved the "E.I.D." at the end.

"The Holiday Song" - Dark lyrics and a ultra-catchy chorus - the Pixies formula. They still play this song, and I've seen Frank Black do it solo, too. Must be a favorite. This would be stuck in my head for days in my youth.

"Nimrod's Son" - We loved this one when we first started listening to the Pixies for its foul-mouthed lyrics alone. Of course, it's also a fantastic song. The incest thing was not uncommon in early Pixies songs, strangely enough.

"I've Been Tired" - One of the more narrative songs that the Pixies ever did, and I've read recently that it's supposed to be poking fun at touring rock bands. In that context, it makes perfect sense. The "I wanna be a singer like Lou Reed" always seemed to make perfect sense to me, too. Black Francis' influences are great, because none of them sound anything like him.

"Levitate Me" - I have this fuzzy memory of sitting down at my mom's typewriter and click-clacking out the lyrics to this song in order to better understand it. It didn't work then, and I still don't think I get it. "They kick a baby"? This is also the song from which they took the title for this EP. Makes a great bookend for "Caribou."

Can't believe it's been 23 years since this came out. It still sounds amazing. I recently got a first pressing (import, yo!) of this, and I am very happy about that.

"I've Been Tired"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (LP, 1975)

I'm just going to come out and say it: I've never heard Dark Side of the Moon. I'm sure I've heard all the songs separately at some point in my life, but I've never sat down and listened to that record. Never owned a copy. Never even thought about it.

Never saw Laser Floyd. When I was 14 I owned a copy of The Wall on CD, but I never got into it and ended up giving it away to a friend. I really dug the song "Learning to Fly" when they played the video all the time on MTV in 1987, but I never picked up A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Pink Floyd just never got through to me. And maybe I never disliked the band as much as I loathed the people who were fans of the group. Floyd has always struck me as music for dumb people who think they're smart (much like Tool does nowadays), or people who really like drugs. I don't care for either of those kinds of people. Maybe that explains why I'm proud to not be a Pink Floyd fan. (And yes, I realize how annoying that is.)

Yet, I still have my copy of Wish You Were Here. As a teenager I loved the mysterious album art, and the fact that there's only four songs on it. And really, that's still what I love about it. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is such a ridiculous exercise in bloat-rock that I've somehow come to embrace it. I've never been a huge fan of "Welcome to the Machine," but I think the title track is the best song I've ever heard from the band. And "Have a Cigar" ain't a bad one, either.

Still, this has never led me to seek out any of their other stuff, and it's much too late for that now. But I'll hold on to this LP, because I still find it enjoyable from time to time. And I still think the cover art is cool as shit.

"Wish You Were Here"