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Music / Deep Dive
We take a deep dive into the two albums punk rockers Pixies will be bringing to Australia next year.
Pixies might be preparing to release their eighth album this September, but when they arrive on Australian shores in March 2020, they’ll be taking fans back to the late ‘80s.
While the Pixies might not be the biggest or most famous band to come out of Boston, they have definitely remained one of the most influential.
Their fans are far and wide, including Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and David Bowie – who even once described them as “the most compelling music, outside of Sonic Youth, in the entire 80s.”
Another fan, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain – in a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone’s David Fricke – even said that during the recording of their album Nevermind, he was “basically trying to rip off the Pixies….When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”
Bowie even described the band as having “changed the format for delivering harder rock” because “once you heard them, you wanted to have a band just like them”.
And that is a perfect description of the place the band sat within the musical landscape of the time. They weren’t just ahead of the curve, they created the curve.
While the end of the 1980s was dominated by hair metal and hard rock acts like Kiss, Motley Crew, Bon Jovi, and Metallica, and the likes of Rick Astley, UB40, Paul McCartney, George Michael and Fleetwood Mac were ruling the charts, Pixies’ blend of metal, punk, and noise rock with more classic rock and even pop elements sat outside of it all.
Their sound became more accessible on their second full-length, 1989’s Doolittle, but it’s the extreme dynamics present on their previous two records that continue to make them lasting hallmarks of the Pixies’ catalogue.
Across three days in the late ‘80s, a fledgling Pixies recorded a 17-track demo called the Purple Tape, and upon signing to AD Records, eight tracks were selected from it to become the Pixies’ first official release Come On Pilgrim.
From poverty in Puerto Rico, to religion, sexual frustration, and even incest – in just 20 minutes the Pixies covered a lot of ground.
The guitars were full throttle, the singing was guttural, the package was violent. But underneath it all was a pop sensibility that is hard to ignore.
Now people were listening.
It’s been just over 30 years since the Pixies released their debut album, Surfer Rosa. And what they couldn’t have predicted then, was the legacy the album would still hold down three decades later.
While Come On Pilgrim introduced Pixies, it was their debut album Surfer Rosa that really cemented their sound. Here they mastered the full thrust > pull right back > go even harder on the climax dynamic of their sound.
They also showcased a brilliant, creative balance between violent and morbid lyrical content with tongue-in-cheek humour.
Completed in two weeks with Steve Albini at the helm, Surfer Rosa put Pixies on the map across the UK and Europe. Critical response in their home of America was positive, but much less widespread, with the record finally being certified Gold in 2006.
Their influence three decades later is so strong that it’s almost hard to believe how bizarre they seemed when they first arrived.
Would we have Smashing Pumpkins without Pixies? What about Mudhoney? Soundgarden? Even The Strokes? Then think about all the bands that those bands influenced.
I guess it’s time to pick up the guitar.
Pixies will bring their ‘Come On Pilgrim…It’s Surfer Rosa’ tour to Australia in March 2020. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.com.au.