Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #40

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries are based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests received, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun!]

Pixies_Doolittle_034Image by Slick Vic via Flickr

NW4NW All Request Month has hit the halfway mark! My thanks again to all of you who have contributed - many great choices already posted, and many more to come before we're done! We kick off the second half with a request from Jay Sweeney, who asked for what is, to this point, the most recent band to make the NW4NW series.

A fresh blast of musical ideas came out of Boston in the mid-1980s via Charles Thompson IV's band. Along with his University of Massachusetts Amherst roommate, Joey Santiago, Charles began writing songs and creating a band who would become one of the most influential acts on the blossoming college rock/indie scene of the late '80s and early '90s. Charles changed his name to Black Francis, and he and Joey posted an ad looking to hire a bass player who enjoyed both Peter, Paul & Mary and Hüsker Dü. Exactly one person responded to the ad, and even though Kim Deal showed up without a bass guitar (and had never played one before), she was in the band. The addition of drummer David Lovering completed the group, who initially called themselves Pixies in Panoply.

Soon enough, the name was shortened to The Pixies, and before long Francis' choppy, shrieking, aggressive music and Deal's poppier-yet-still-askew melodies were gaining a lot of interest. An initial salvo of three records between 1987 and 1989, Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, and Doolittle, traced the bands ascension to underground icon status. Juxtaposing loud-and-scratchy with soft-and-gentle years before Nirvana smelled the teen spirit, their sound was startling different from just about everyone else making records at the time. Indeed, Kurt Cobain cited The Pixies as a strong influence on Nirvana's sound; it's hard to imagine much of the 1990s grunge/alternative sound existing without the first three Pixies' records having been recorded.

The Pixies continued on into the '90s themselves, but the working relationship between Francis and Deal soured quickly. Both began exploring side projects: Black Francis underwent another name change, becoming Frank Black and releasing some excellent solo records; Kim Deal formed The Breeders with her sister Kelley Deal and Tanya Donnelly of The Throwing Muses and recorded some fantastic material. But they frankly just didn't like each other very much, and the fractures showed on subsequent Pixies records. In 1993, Francis dissolved the band.

Because their rabid fan base demanded it, The Pixies reunited around 2005 and played intermittently over the next two or three years before splintering again, having not recorded any new material.

Jay's specific request was for one of The Pixies finest songs, the wonderful "Where Is My Mind?" from the must-have Surfer Rosa album. Not only a great song, "Where Is My Mind?" is also an excellent representation of the The Pixies basic sound: electric and acoustic guitars clashing in a scratchy melody, Black Francis howling out alienated image-heavy lyrics, Kim Deal keeping whole thing from careening off into an atonal mess. And so, I present it here as the current NW4NW All Request Month entry. Thank you for this pick, Jay - good choice!

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