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LIVE REPORT: Pixies In Brixton
Mic Wright , October 1st, 2013 09:48

Will Pixies be the same with no Kim Deal and a bunch of new material? Mic Wright heads to the intimate Brixton Electric to investigate

Pixies without Kim Deal. Unthinkable. Yeah, okay, whatever. Kim Deal is great. An amazing bassist. A nifty song writer. One of the coolest people ever to shimmy and stumble onto a stage but is she the soul of Pixies? I don’t think so. Friday at the Brixton Electric strengthens that view. Pixies are playing small venues and kicking out the old jams alongside the new. There’s a ‘new’ Kim there too. Kim Shattuck of The Muffs, whose bass playing and backing harmonies are utterly on point. 'Gigantic' aside, Pixies' best songs were Black Francis creations. As long as he and the Joey Santiago’s enthralling guitar lines are there, the guts of Pixies still writhe with life. 

Dressed in uniform black and with a stage set so sparse that it might be a student’s bedsit, Pixies come on meaning business. First up, a respectfully clattering cover of The Fall’s 'New Big Prinz': “Check the record. Check the record. Check the guy’s track record.” I have checked Black Francis’s track record time and time again and this is another perfect illustration of just how many songs his left-the-field-and-gone-off-road has disgorged over the years. Best of all, the new material of recent months sounds fresh and yet fits perfectly into a set stuffed with caustic brilliance. No one screams like Black Francis screams. 

After the frenzied Fall cover, 'Subbacultcha' slinks into view with all the sullen charm of the goths who linger in its lyrics (“I was looking handsome. She was looking like… an erotic vulture!”). Then we get another cover but a heritage one that nestled nicely on Trompe Le Monde and still does the trick nicely now. 'Head On' was a cracker when Jesus And Mary Chain wrote it but you could argue that Black Francis’s take is the definitive version. On a Friday night in Brixton, it still sound revelatory. 

The first unfamiliar song of the night is the unreleased 'Magdalena 318', the most b-sidey of the new material, poppy and lightweight even compared to the fluffy 'Andro Queen' which opens EP1. 'Wave of Mutilation' and 'River Euhprates' are the first emissaries from the Surfer Rosa and Doolittle eras. They are rapidly followed by the big MOR guitar chuck of 'Another Toe In The Ocean' (from EP1) and 'Greens And Blues', another unreleased song that is a new staple of Pixies set lists. 

The longest run of ‘hits’ at the show is a rush through 'Levitate Me', 'Caribou', 'Ed Is Dead', 'Hey' and 'Lady In Heaven (The Radiator Song)' in quick succession. After that chunk of singalong heaven, the band are back on relatively untested ground with 'Indie Cindy' – all tambourine and almost country guitar – and the previously-mentioned 'Andro Queen' with its drum stomp and almost wistful Black Francis vocals, pining for the titular heroine. From a man who once obsessed over space going surfers, talk of the silver rocket-owning girl almost feels a little forced. 

'Where Is My Mind?' still has the power to make your breath short and comes sandwiched between 'Velouria' and 'Havalina', reinforcing the sense that Pixies latest go around is rather obsessed with giving Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde a little more love alongside the new stuff. Though the set ends with a run mixing Surfer Rosa/Dolittle era songs ('Gouge Away', 'I’ve Been Tired', 'Ana', 'Brick Is Red') with nu-Pixies tracks ('What Goes Boom' and 'Bag Boy'), one song is notable by its absence. 'Debaser', perhaps the Pixies' equivalent of Radiohead's 'Creep', has failed to find a slot during the recent run of dates. 

So, no 'Debaser' and no Kim Deal. Yet Black Francis still sounds fiery, the brimstone preacher from a psychotic church, David Lovering has the back beat locked down and Joey Santiago is still one of the most astounding guitar players ever to put his hands to work on wood and wire. Of course Kim Deal is missed but Kim Shattuck is a great bass player with simmering stage presence. Is this Pixies or some heritage revival act with the same chubby face at the front but no soul to back it up? On tonight's evidence, a defiant 'no'.