Career overview of comeback rockers...
Back in 1997, four years after the cessation of
the Pixies as a going concern, a line was drawn underneath their work with what was judged
to be as close to a perfect overview of the
band’s career as you could hope to get, ‘Death To The Pixies’.
But a band so influential, so creative, so crap at replicating their success in spin-off projects cannot rest easy, and so 2004 brings a Pixies resurrection. The timing couldn’t have been better – now the Franzes and others have reawakened the dirtier end of indie after years of Coldplay politeness and the narrow, hold-nursey’s-hand horizons of the Stereophonics, the Pixies’ screeching and what-the-hell-was-that basslines sit well in the current landscape. Having their name scattered across most of last month’s dead Kurt souvenir sections couldn’t have hurt either. Yes, we know there wouldn’t have been ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ without the Pixies, but we can let them off that minor transgression. And you can’t have a rebirth without a new compilation, can you? Hence, ‘Wave
As a first-time taster for the Pixies, the album is spot-on: combining ‘Gigantic’, ‘Debaser’ and ‘Here Comes Your Man’
is a recipe that would be hard to get wrong. But is ‘Death
To The Pixies’ to ‘Wave of Mutilation’ an upgrade that’s
worth the effort? The official line is that ‘Wave…’ “expands”
on the previous one, mainly by chucking in a few B-sides.
The most welcome addition is a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Winterlong’, recovered from the ‘Dig For Fire’ EP. Almost a showreel for the band’s brief flirtation with commerciality, the growling engine at the heart of the band’s music is kept in check to allow the melodic vocals to pass by unmolested,
if not unharried. For your money, you also get ‘Vamos’
and ‘Hey’ chucked in, and one of the outrages of ‘Death…’
is reversed, with the restoration of the underrated ‘Allison’ to the canon. The other big flaw isn’t corrected, though – it’s still the wobbly-Cher-vocals album version of ‘Planet Of Sound’ here, presumably to prevent the album being dismissed as a mere singles collection.
So, while perfect for the newcomer and essential for the completist, if your Pixies obsession isn’t quite so all-consuming that you’ve already pre-ordered all 15 limited-edition live albums coming out to commemorate the North American tour, you might find the DVD compilation provides better scream for your shilling.
Sure, the promos are a harsh reminder that the band made some of the worst videos ever (indeed, the slow-motion, walking-towards-the-camera-in-a-quarry clip for ‘Velouria’ should be put on some sort of trial at The Hague), and the presentation of the 1988 Town & Country Club gig is left looking pedestrian and amateurish even by the standards of candid on-the-road home videos. But you can ignore the pictures and enjoy the obligatory Beatles cover (‘Wild Honey Pie’), and, more tastily, The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘Head On’ (another band that managed the rare trick of combining jiggly-eyed madness with a sweeter melodic side). There are two lengthy documentaries, On The Road and Gouge while the
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DVD also allows you to follow Frank Black’s hairline backwards
and his man-boobs outwards, giving a sense of progression the CD’s frustratingly not-quite-chronological tracklisting denies you.
Simon Hayes Budgen