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Beyond The Hits

Pixies: Quietus Writers Digging For Fire Beyond The Hits
Laurie Tuffrey , June 4th, 2014 11:22

With the Pixies' Sunday headline set at Field Day approaching, Simon Price, John Freeman, John Doran, Nick Hutchings, Julian Marszalek, Phil Harrison, JR Moores, Cian Traynor, Laurie Tuffrey, Stewart Smith, Jeremy Allen, Luke Turner and Paul Tucker get levitated beyond the hits and list some of the band's greatest album tracks, B-sides and rarities

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'In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song)' from The Purple Tape (1987)

The idea of Pixies, so often described as 'Lynchian' for their strangeness, surrealism and sexually-perverse narratives, performing an actual David Lynch song might appear, at first glance, a little too on-the-nose. But 'In Heaven', lip-synced in the 1977 film Eraserhead by a disturbingly hamster-cheeked Laurel Near (to a vocal by its composer Peter Ivers), was present on the band's first-ever demo tape and a regular set-closer on early tours, long before a live recording turned up on the B-side of the 'Gigantic' single. A rare chance (along with 'Into The White' and 'Gigantic' itself) for Kim Deal to take the spotlight at concerts, it was always a sweetly sinister comedown after the mayhem that preceded it. Simon Price

'Isla De Encanta' from Come On Pilgrim (1987)

Come On Pilgrim, we now know, was borrowed from the catchphrase of Christian rocker Larry Norman. The title can, however, equally be read as a voice inside Black Francis' head taunting him to abandon the refinement of Boston, and dirty his dainty hands in the Latin lands whose language he was learning. In his second year, the U-Mass student was tempted away to Puerto Rico for six months. 'Isla De Encanta', built on a dramatic Hispanic chord sequence and sung in the faltering Spanish parodied so brilliantly by Chris Morris on 'Motherbanger', is a love letter to that Caribbean territory, and (with several other Pixies songs) comprises a musical equivalent to Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary. Fifty per cent Big Black and fifty per cent Paco de Lucía, this is the song, along with its immediate predecessor in the …Pilgrim tracklisting, 'Vamos', on which Pixies accidentally invented a whole new genre: flamencore. Simon Price

'I've Been Tired' from Come On Pilgrim (1987)

From a lyrical standpoint, most Pixies songs were dripping with blood, sex, death and UFOs. However, very few Pixies' songs developed a narrative. The storytelling was opaque – with the listener fed high-octane flashes of imagery. However, the penultimate track on the peerless Come On Pilgrim mini-album was an extraordinary outlier. 'I've Been Tired' was a thrashier, punkier take on their quiet/loud/quiet song structure, and one that told a fantastical tale of a "humble guy with healthy desire" meeting a woman with "strong legs, strong face, voice like milk, breasts like a cluster of grapes" in a bar. Over a frankly hilarious dialogue, our 'hero' revealed to wanting to "be a singer like Lou Reed" before admitting that his "biggest fear" was "losing his penis to a whore with disease." Excuse me please? John Freeman

'Bone Machine' from Surfer Rosa (1988)

The last thing that is ever mentioned about the Pixies is how good their lyrics are. Perhaps understandably people have tended to focus in on their quiet/loud/quiet dynamic, the numerous bands they influenced, the uneasy relationship between Kim Deal and Black Francis and how weirdly normal they are for such a weirdly out-there group. But the words are key to what the Pixies are about - a mix of biblical violence and pop culture reference; a rough mix of classical allusion and gutter talk. Their themes always seemed to be a perversion of the basic human needs for sex, shelter, warmth and intoxication given voice by a cast of belligerent and damaged characters. Black's keen eye for the complexities of human sexual behaviour was always much more sophisticated than that of most of his contemporaries but generally uncommented on because of his refusal to signpost what he was doing or hide behind postmodern irony or goofiness. In the opening track from Surfer Rosa there is sexual paranoia combined with a need to ignore what's under his nose contained in the lines: "You're looking like/ You've got some sun/ Your blistered lips/ Have got a kiss/ They taste a bit like everyone." While the dim recall (or perhaps even false memory) of "I was talking to preachy-preach about kissy-kiss… He bought me a soda and he tried to molest me in the parking lot", recited in a sing-song child's voice chills to the bone. Every concept is boiled down to an irreducibly rendered object in a manner reminiscent of an imagist poet, perhaps not surprising given that their next album would be named for Hilda Doolittle. John Doran

"You fuckin' die!" in 'Oh My Golly!' from Surfer Rosa (1988)

Sandwiched between exotic Puerto Rican references and the mangled Spanish of 'Oh My Golly!' and 'Vamos' on Surfer Rosa is a spoken word interlude full of Anglo Saxon invective. Not a song and very much beyond the hits, firstly it seems like Black Francis is losing his shit. However it's the one-sided recording of a conversation between Francis and producer and arch-provocateur Steve Albini. Francis shouts, "You fuckin' die!" We don't hear Albini's response, but in my mind it's an indignant and mannered Wayne's World-esque "ex-squeeze me?" as if Francis had directed his aggression towards the control room. Francis then repeats it, but explains that he had said it to Kim, and even though we still don't hear the responses, Francis suddenly backtracks as if he realises the hole he is digging for himself. It transpires Kim had recently told people not to touch her stuff and Francis had added his own take on what she meant, i.e. or else "you fuckin' die".   As with any joke that has to be explained to the nth degree it has become toe-curlingly devoid of humour by this point, and Albini engineered this mean-spirited stunt to stimulate studio banter. What makes it so compelling is that Francis has chosen to leave it in the final master, which given his history of autocracy, seems a surprise as the monologue doesn't paint him in the best light. Francis' self-effacement, however, speaks volumes; he is both a figure of fury and of fun and it's this fulcrum upon which the Pixies is so finely perched. Nick Hutchings

'Manta Ray', B-side to 'Monkey Gone To Heaven' (1989)

'Manta Ray' is one of those hidden gems that serve to remind why it was always worth running out and buying their singles. Originally released as a B-side to 'Monkey Gone To Heaven', this delightful nugget manages to tick all the right boxes. Clocking in at just over two-and-a-half minutes, the track pushes, pulls and explodes in a breathless rush while blending in Kim Deal's wonderfully childlike backing vocals against simplistic, fuzzed chords and Joey Santiago's colourful one-note solo. Dismissed by Black Francis as a "not-so-classic quickie", 'Manta Ray' is emphatic proof that even their throwaways contained more worth than the best of lesser artists. Julian Marszalek

'Dead' from Doolittle (1989)

At the age of 12, Charles Thompson was inducted by his parents into the Assemblies Of God church, and that old-time Pentecostal religion never quite left him in adult life. 'Dead' is arguably the finest of Pixies' many Biblically-inspired moments. Over an insistent and brutally staccato one-note riff from Joey Santiago, the singer - barking into a broken microphone - imagines 2 Samuel 11, a torrid Old Testament tale of betrayal, rape and murder, from the point of view of a stone-hearted and sociopathic King David. Its 2 minutes 21 seconds are bookended by an immortal opening line ("You crazy babe Bathsheba, I wantcha!") and an absurdist pun about Uriah the Hittite ("Uriah hit the crapper... DEAD.") Along with the even more deranged 'Tame', it gives the lie to any idea that Doolittle was Pixies going soft. Simon Price

'No. 13 Baby' from Doolittle (1989)

The difference between most bands and a really, really great band is how the latter will do stuff that the former would never dream of. And I don't just mean that really, really great bands have ideas that the rest of us would never be able to dream up, I mean they have ideas that we would dismiss out of hand as being terrible or gauche. Really, really great bands often exist in a state of blessed idiot-savantism and in the Pixies' case, this is fully engaged on one of the best tracks on Doolittle, 'No. 13 Baby'. I remember clearly the first time I heard this track and thinking to myself, "Why the hell is he singing like that? This is the worse singing I've ever heard in my life." And then as well, "What is he singing about? Grandmas? Tits? Topless sweaty women?" I don't think I knew what the word aesthetic meant, but mine (moulded almost entirely by The Cure and The Sisters Of Mercy) had clearly been dented by this song. But despite my timid, politically correct, conservative teenage outlook on life, it took me less than a week to realise that this was a work of genius. The thing is, there isn't a different set of rules for really, really great bands but only they know exactly what these rules are. John Doran

'Into The White', B-side to 'Here Comes Your Man' (1989)

No Kim, no Pixies. Sorry, but that's just how it is. She squared the circle and lent unruly charisma to an otherwise unprepossessing trio. The Pixies were the first cool band I saw in a small, steaming, oversold venue - the Birmingham Hummingbird in April 1989. They began with 'Into The White' and the combination of strobes, smoke, excitement, extreme overcrowding and Kim's simultaneously earthy and unearthly vocals (she still possesses my all-time favourite female rock voice bar none) completely blew my mind and set me off on a lifetime's chasing of a comparable buzz. A swooping and ascending bass line, a sexily-sinister mantra, a sense of gradually escalating chaos and finally, a frenzied release. 'Into The White' certainly isn't their best song and it may not even be their best B-side. But to me, it's a true gateway song, an unusually delicious palate cleanser and, both that night and beyond, a thrilling foretaste of what was to come. Phil Harrison

'Bailey's Walk', B-side to 'Here Comes Your Man' (1989)

Perhaps more than any other Pixies track, 'Bailey's Walk' - a B-side on the perky country-pop 'Here Comes Your Man' single - was all about the voice of Black Francis. While his demonic croon and bile-boiling yowl are integral to the Pixies' appeal, 'Bailey's Walk' almost acted as an anorak's checklist of Francis' range of yelps, screams and his best pristine choirboy impression, and was a gloriously off-beat ditty about a San Juan man Francis would see walking in an oddly comic manner. The opening, "He takes some steps/ And bopped his head", couplet sounded gloriously pained and strained while the trademark guttural screech of "Bailey!" was proof positive that Charles Thompson IV could holler like a bastard. John Freeman

'Make Believe', B-side to 'Velouria' (1990)

Come on pilgrim, you know he's Lovering. What's not to love about Pixies' drummer? Firstly, there's his name. Dave Lovering. Love-ring. Sounds romantic, but also a bit rude. He once turned down an offer to join Foo Fighters, instead becoming a magician. He's the most interesting character in the loudQUIETloud documentary, wandering around with an iPod shouting about how into music he is, going off the rails after the death of his father. As Pixies connoisseur Adam Buxton wisely points out in another Pixies doc, Gouge, one of the highlights of Doolittle is the flamboyant 'La La Love You', sung by Lovering. The Dealophiles can lament the lack of Kim-sung Pixies tracks but they've got The Breeders. We needed more Lovering lead vocals, with his sweet, smooth baritone. Inspired by Lovering's obsession with Debbie Gibson, Black Francis wrote this B-side for his drummer to sing. It zips along in classic Pixies fashion, crashing to a halt in under two minutes, at which point you want to hear it again. JR Moores

'Rock Music' from Bossanova (1990)

I first tried to get into the Pixies when I was in 19. I say "tried" because, well, it didn't click. A friend held the band in such reverence that I sought out a copy of Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim, expecting a revelation. But it didn't come. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our sense of taste hasn't developed to a point where we can appreciate the thing in front of us.

Fortunately for me, this happened at a time when you kept listening to albums you bought, even if they disappointed. So when the same friend saw me struggling to get the Pixies, he handed me their other three albums and insisted I stick with it. The revelation finally came with Bossanova. It's hard to imagine now, looking back, that there was once a point where I didn't feel an intimate connection with the Pixies. But that album is what it took to make sense of it all.

Hearing 'Rock Music' is the moment that sticks out. A wave of feedback crashes into an intense drum roll, a grinding guitar riff starts sliding back on itself and the song pulsates with a delirious urgency. Its refrain is barely intelligible: five words of frustrated longing ("Your mouth's... a mile... away") focused into a musical temper tantrum. There's so much energy packed into the simplicity behind 'Rock Music' that it can't be sustained any further than 112 seconds – not the shortest Pixies song by any stretch, but arguably their most visceral. And it still sounds just as jolting as it did that first time. Cian Traynor

'All Over The World' from Bossanova (1990)

From the opening, spoken-word, "Hey babe, how you doing?/ Can I be your boy?", to the defiant, "I can't ride/ But one more time/ I will ride/ All over the world", this initially feels like a Pixoid inversion of a 50s biker gang track. From thereon in, though, things get a little harder to place. Alternate lyrics piece together to form some kind of story - "Washed over the side… slow diver down" and "Top of the sky… two feet land on a different ground", but these butt heads with other bracingly concrete images, snippets of a narrative we're not fully party to: "Better call the ranger," Francis advises through walkie-talkie fuzz, "got a train derailment", building a woozy, disorienting (Francis deftly summarises "I am a derangement" at one point) sprawl of a track. The centrepiece of Bossanova, it seems to act as a bridge between the brittle pop of Doolittle and the cosmic tangents of Trompe Le Monde, nowhere more so than when Joey Santiago produces a squalling run of virtuoso guitar, which Francis greets with a youthful, wide-eyed "rock out!" Laurie Tuffrey

'The Happening' from Bossanova (1990)

An atypical Pixies track thanks in part to its length, 'The Happening', a prime cut from their underrated third album, Bossanova, possesses all of their characteristic traits: the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics are all present and correct as Black Francis' obsession with Area 51 are brought to the fore.

But what really makes 'The Happening' stand out is the song's extended outro section wherein alien visitors finally make their presence felt as they choose to appear among the bright lights of Las Vegas. Musically the band combines the kind of chord sequence that would make any of the 50s street corner serenaders proud with guitar licks that scream out, "Surf's up!" whilS in the process making a sound which is uniquely their own. Julian Marszalek

'Havalina' from Bossanova (1990)

If we assume "havalina" is an anglicisation of "javelina", then this gorgeous desert reverie might be read as a homage to the peccary, or skunk pig, which can be found snuffling around the shores of Montezuma Well, a famous oasis in Arizona. But the meaning is less important than the sound; sung in a dreamy round by Kim Deal and a falsetto Black Francis, "havalina" is an exquisitely pretty word, evoking the dappled light among the trees where Francis walks. The vocals shimmer over chiming surf guitars and psychedelic reverb effects, capturing sunrise at old Sedona where the red rocks glow orange and yellow in the morning light. Stewart Smith

'I Can't Forget' from I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1991)

One of the finest songs on Leonard Cohen's 1988 masterpiece I'm Your Man, 'I Can't Forget' is a romantic ode to the pursuit of faded memories, with Cohen's wise and witty voice buoyed by Philip Glass-like marimba and warm swells of pedal steel. While something of the original's ambiguity and delicacy is lost in translation, the Pixies' cinematic indie rock treatment is quite effective, with Black Francis's yowl adding a cracked edge to Cohen's wistful ruminations. Joey Santiago transforms Cohen's faux-naïf Casio plink into a classic Pixies guitar lead, all frayed sustain and ringing unison bends, while Kim Deal is a fine Sharon Robinson to Black's Cohen. Stewart Smith

'Theme From NARC', B-side to 'Planet Of Sound' (1991)

Morally dubious, but wickedly good fun, the 1988 arcade classic NARC allows you to play Max Force, a merciless law enforcer who gleefully despatches junkies, dealers and gangsters in a pyrotechnic orgy of ultra-violence that would make Judge Dredd wince. Its theme tune, by veteran games composer Brian Schmidt, is a classic: a 16-bit cyberpunk take on the Dead Kennedys' surf 'n' spy riff-o-rama, pumped up with the cocaine and steroid fever of a Jerry Bruckheimer flick. A delinquent kid brother to instrumentals like 'Cecilia Ann', 'Theme From NARC' is the perfect vehicle for the Pixies to indulge their sicko surf-rock side. Black Francis intones the title in a sneering robotic voice, while Joey Santiago's jagged guitar melody chases Kim Deal and Dave Lovering's biker metal chug. While it never comes close to the genuine menace of 'Cactus' or 'Vamos', 'Theme From NARC' delivers a cheap and nasty thrill. Stewart Smith

'Trompe Le Monde' from Trompe Le Monde (1991)

Though the parent album is probably the least adored of all their releases, Trompe Le Monde does at least contain enough moments within it to sustain repeat visits. The title track is certainly one of them. Opening with a series of atonal strums that wrong-foot the listener, 'Trompe Le Monde' leaps from the paddock and breaks into a pounding gallop that leaves a trail of dust and upturned turf in its wake. Cheekily heralded by the band as their "heavy metal" album, 'Trompe Le Monde' is one of those classic Pixies moments where an extraordinary amount of ideas are packed into a very short space of time and one that's indicative of the first flush of their career. Julian Marszalek

'The Sad Punk' from Trompe Le Monde (1991)

It's a tough act, but this is maybe the best microcosm of all that makes Trompe Le Monde an incredible album: Black Francis' space-gazing lyrics, the band riding a high of musicianship and Gil Norton's razor-sharp production rendering the gloriously synthetic, effects-heavy sonics in high resolution. It also goes in for many of the tracks' multi-part mini-odyssey feel, that of a band successfully slipping in way too much to be contained within the songs' slender timings, similar to the opener (see above), 'Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons' steadily inflaming from Leonard Cohen organ torch song to full Martian highway rawk and 'Space (I Believe In)'s mutant grind and Perry Mason-nodding mid-section. But 'The Sad Punk' is so virulent, it feels like it's barely keeping inside its runtime, bang on three minutes. Within that, the band shifts from clunking tom drops into throat-throttler punk, which threatens to cave in further speed-wise (appropriately over the lyric "one thousand miles an hour") and ends up a plaintive ballad. Francis' lyrics revolve around total wipeout and desirable nihilism, throwing up images of wanting "to feel the road of tar beneath the wheel named extinction". This comes before the head-spinning line: "Evolving from the sea/ Would not be too much time for me/ To walk beside you in the sun", either some monumental declaration of eternal love or a tenderly-intoned reflection on vertebrate existence. Think about that: evolution in three minutes! Four hundred million years in 180 seconds! Gah, it's too much, it's brilliant. Laurie Tuffrey

'U-Mass' from Trompe Le Monde (1991)

'U-Mass' for the uninitiated is neither a Catholic WWII killing machine or a website for people who like their pornography on the large side, it is in fact the abbreviated name for the University of Massachusetts, and as homages go to that part of the world, this is certainly a lot grubbier than The Bee Gees'. Cut with a riff straight out of the Bachman Turner Overdrive chord book for spunk-fingered Top Gear enthusiasts, it comes laden with a steady cowbell throughout and wears a ten-gallon hat and a rah-rah skirt around its ankles as it urinates into a traffic cone someone is trying to shout slogans through. It could have all gone so horribly wrong, and that's even before you've surveyed the frat boy lyric: "Oh, kiss me, cunt/ And, kiss me, cock… Oh, kiss my ass, oh, let it rock". Black Francis seems to be taking the piss out of the pissed-up revelry, the having sex with a Benny hat on, the developing allegiances to floundering 19th-century political philosophies in tandem with all the other spotty, cravat-donning aspiring intelligentsia... and all the other student shibboleths, but there's a fondness here for (maybe) a younger Charles Thompson and his coterie that's actually vaguely touching. He's shooting fish in a barrel basically, and it might be unforgivable if it didn't all sound like so much fun. 'It's educational,' bawls Francis ironically to an institution that breeds stupidity and sounds less like Bret Easton Ellis' Camden campus than it does National Lampoon's Animal House. Best of all, the supposed joie de vivre of university life is captured for those of us who didn't go and will happily take this tremendously energetic canticle over a lifetime of tuition fees any day. Jeremy Allen

'Distance Equals Rate Times Time' from Trompe Le Monde (1991)

A shock of a song in Trompe Le Monde's upper reaches, 'Distance Equals Rate Times Time' picks up Francis' observation when Jefrey with one 'f' drives away in 'Space (I Believe In)' and hurtles by at high velocity, both too short and the perfect length. I first got into Pixies when they released their 2004 reformation best of Wave Of Mutilation, and, over a night of repeated plays, they became my favourite band. Within the next few weeks, I bought the rest of their studio albums and began to learn more about them. One strand of this was feeling slightly bemused about why the latter two (at that point) albums were so out of favour, and the hooky, melodic pop of 'Distance Equals Rate Times Time' was a key part of the confusion. The best thing about it is the way it takes the Buddy Holly-esque, two-minutes-and-less song format the band had established early on (overtly so on Doolittle, when Francis handed Norton a copy of Holly's Greatest Hits) and gives it Trompe…'s celestial twist. Had this been on Surfer Rosa, you'd imagine it would have been dead and dry (in a good way), but here it's the ringing, metallic guitar curls over the chorus and Joey Santiago's abrasive downstrokes that chime in halfway through, satellites spinning around the song's three-chord gravitational pull, that make it - and Trompe... as a whole - just as addictive as the early material. Laurie Tuffrey

'Motorway To Roswell' from Trompe Le Monde (1991)

I gorged on Pixies albums via a £4.99 CD sale in Norwich HMV at some point during the late 1990s. For a while they never left my Philips compact disc player, and I used to love dancing to them at excellent London nightclub Trash - there was always a funk and swing to Pixies that meant that they fitted well alongside electronic music, both pop and -clash versions. However since then I've not really returned, perhaps because my interest in wider mainstream indie guitar music has waned. Listening back, I must admit that it's the music on Trompe Le Monde that has stayed with me the longest, with its excellent chugging pop songs, weird shouting and that brilliant cover of The Jesus And Mary Chain. 'Motorway To Roswell' I adore for its epic cheesiness that emerges unexpectedly from the distorted guitar beginning, for the hymnal pomp that imbues the song, the lyrics about some unfortunate alien whose "tiny boat/ sparked as he grazed it" and ended up as crated meat for analysis by US spooks. Or perhaps given the use of "motorway" over "freeway" and "holiday" rather than "vacation" means the whole thing is an allegory for an Englishman lost in the American west. Who knows or cares, this is Pixies at their best... and the piano outro sounds like Guns N' Roses. However, since then I've not really returned (though for the record I think the new LP is really good). Luke Turner

'Wild Honey Pie' from Pixies At The BBC (1998)

The Pixies arrived in the UK - the country where they'd find their fame initially - a fully formed thing. I saw them supporting Throwing Muses on April 29, 1988 at the Manchester International; it was only their fourth date on these shores but they were pretty much already as good as they ever would be. In terms of releases, they had the mini-album Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa out, but were already playing tracks that would be released on Doolittle. In fact, just before the gig, on March 19, Sounds released the Waves 3 cover-mounted EP with 'Down To The Well' on it, a track which wouldn't surface until Bossanova in 1990. But one early staple of their live sets which got partially lost in the stampede was their blistering take on The Beatles' 'Wild Honey Pie'. It was less than two minutes of string snapping, chord-ruining brilliance and rounded off the set that I saw them do. After all - literally where could you go after this other than directly off stage? John Doran

'Hey' from Pixies At The BBC (1998)

Kim Deal once explained how, in their own way, the Pixies sang about the same things as anybody else. The "Oh kiss me cunt, oh kiss me cock" line from 'U-Mass', said Deal, exemplified "a way to present the same boring, repetitious themes that have occurred throughout time".

Less overtly than 'U-Mass', 'Hey' invokes those same cocks and cunts for a cautionary purpose. With grunts and shrieks, and devils and whores and consequences, 'Hey' is a three-minute descent from bar-room ("Hey! Been trying to meet you"), to bedroom ("Uh!"), to crushing, hopeless boredom ("When the baby breaks!/ We're chained").

"The song's emotion meant that it needed a performance," Doolittle producer Gil Norton said of recording 'Hey', "I don't think it would have felt very good if it wasn't done in a live situation."

With the band arriving at Maida Vale weeks after the release of Surfer Rosa, 'Hey' was a surprise choice that day, a new song from an album yet to be recorded, let alone announced to fans. Perhaps as a result, the BBC performance is looser than the Doolittle version – the pace noticeably jumps on the former's chorus, Black Francis's shrieks are a little more wild, the emotion generally less restrained.

Although Norton's decision, when recording the song for Doolittle, to "put [Black Francis] in a cupboard, for separation" might explain why the vocals sound strangely anaemic, it's no fault of Norton's that, lacking the pressure of recording an album (and with the tension between Black and Deal not at the level it would reach during the Doolittle sessions), the band found the perfect live situation months before their producer had the chance. Paul Tucker

'Bam Thwok' (2004)

Almost ten years ago to the day, the Pixies had their first, now nearly-forgotten comeback with this cartoonish yelp of a song made with DreamWorks money as a potential song for the Shrek 2 soundtrack. For the band it was an icebreaker before heading back on the road to play live again for the first time après Trompe Le Monde. Nonsensical onomatopoeic lyrics like: "Bang. Crash. Wakka, wakka, Bam Thwok!" were not new to the band, but Kim Deal being allowed to write a Pixies song again was a novelty. Originally intended as lyrics for a Breeders song, Deal got the lyrics from a discarded art book she'd chanced upon on the street. Apparently belonging to a child, it featured a short story about a mythical universe where monsters and people partied in unison. It seemed like a new era of entente cordiale, and given the "Gigantic" success they had last time Kim was up front, the fans were hopeful.   Although bursting with bubblegum pop sensibility, 'Bam Thwok' featured a wilfully obscure 15-second breakdown of merry-go-round-style organ music borrowed from a recording of Joey Santiago's father-in-law who was a preacher in the Philippines. Perhaps it was this that put the film company off, since this first new song since 1991 did not crash bang onto the Shrek 2 soundtrack and we were left with the likes of Counting Crows instead. Unperturbed, the band, without a label at this time and in a prescient move, decided to launch the song via iTunes and reaped the instant benefit.   Despite relative success, this song has often been forgotten when discussing the return of the Pixies last year. 'Bam Thwok' is not the best of Kim's songs: not the weirdest - that must go to 'Silver' - nor is it the best vocal performance, which surely has to be 'Break My Body'. But it is maybe the silliest, and although that may be the reason it has been ignored, for me it's what makes it irresistible. Nick Hutchings

Pixies headline Field Day in Victoria Park, London on Sunday, June 8; get hold of tickets here


Jun 4, 2014 12:28pm

What a fucking pathetic lot! Hey Laurie, are you Frank Black-- nice solo career, fatso, cue 'group' nostalgia-- forsaken child and this is your relentless bid for attention? Goddamn Limeys SHOULD know better but maybe O Level really did in vain. Nice work, Doran!

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tony m
Jun 4, 2014 1:14pm

"There were rumours he was into field hockey players..."

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Jun 4, 2014 1:45pm

The Happening has always been one of my favorites; nice to see it get some love.

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Jun 4, 2014 2:39pm

The Death To The Pixies bonus live album should be in here in its entirety!

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Doug
Jun 5, 2014 1:08am

It's great to see some love for 'All Over The World'. That's always been one of my favourite tracks of theirs, and I don't think I've heard anyone else even mention it before.

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Jun 5, 2014 2:01am

Roswell is in New Mexico. Area 51 is in Nevada.

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Peter
Jun 5, 2014 2:58am

Great article - love the choices!

I'd like to nominate "Hang Wire" from Bossanova for a mention. It starts off a bit cheesy - something about Charles' initial lines sounding a bit like David Hasselhoff (in my head anyway) but the guitars are *so* ridiculously catchy and Kims backing "they're going higher" is cool too!

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Iee
Jun 5, 2014 8:34am

Kim never sang In Heaven, you plonkers.

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Jun 5, 2014 9:58am

'Rock Music' is possibly my favourite Pixies song, it's like the boiled down essence of rock n roll. It's almost completely nonsensical, relentlessly driving and Frank makes that noise...THAT NOISE...the one that sounds like a mountain lion being lanced with a spear. It never ever gets old, it's just elemental.

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Josh
Jun 5, 2014 11:59am

In reply to Iee:

Actually, Kim sang "In Heaven" at many concerts.

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Peter
Jun 5, 2014 3:24pm

In reply to Iee:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOxdoJRaeM
I prefer Kim singing that one than Charles, although they're both good.

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exterminatethehumanrace
Jun 5, 2014 5:22pm

Up until the (sigh) reunion, the Pixies had an extremely fat-free discography. I could live without some of the novelty-rock vibes of later songs like UMass but all their records are rewarding all the way through, which is kind of amazing considering how many molten tons of filler was being poured into 90s "indie" releases by lesser bands. One track I don't see listed here is the heart-on-sleeve Alec Eiffel, which has that wonderfully haunting coda with keyboards by the Pere Ubu fella.

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Rob Donofrio
Jun 6, 2014 12:02am

Great article! I especially love Manta Ray, Bailey's Walk, and Motorway to Roswell. They are in my top 10 Pixies songs. I hate that Black Francis dismissed Manta Ray. That song is so much fun and I love his vocal gymnastics on it.

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jg
Jun 7, 2014 1:09pm

nice to see songs like Bailey's Walk and Make Believe getting some love. only track I miss is Winterlong, a Neil Young cover (originally for some tribute I think) but completely Pixie-fied with some excellent tuneless Santiago-soloing and lots of Kim Deal backing vocals.

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Christian
Jun 7, 2014 5:54pm

No 13. Baby will always be my fave Pixies tracks, so great to seee it mentioned here. Especially the instrumental part is wonderful.

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