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"If man is five
—Pixies, "Monkey Gone to Heaven".
"We can play loud or quiet - that's it."
—Black Francis, quoted in the article "The Pixies: Gods of Almost Pop"
Another highly influential 1980s Alternative Rock band that reached a moderate level of popularity but enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. Famous fans include: Isaac Brock, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Weezer, and Bono, among others.
The band's members are guitarist/vocalist Black Francis, bassist/vocalist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering. Their musical style is distinguished by its fusion of Surf Rock melodies with Punk Rock aesthetics and (later on) Psychedelic Rock influences, being capable of both earwormyness and brutal aggression.
Pixies' recording career started in 1987 with the release of the Come on Pilgrim EP on British label Four AD Records. They released four more albums on the same label (with Elektra Records handling them in the US) until officially disbanding in 1993 due to exhaustion after supporting U2 on the Zoo TV tour and intra-band tension, mostly over Francis marginalizing the others' contributions (especially Deal's). Francis changed his name to Frank Black and started a solo career, Deal found success with The Breeders, Santiago worked in soundtracks and his band The Martinis and Lovering alternated drumming with a hobby as a magician. The band reunited in 2004, took a hiatus in 2007, re-reunited in 2009 and is still touring today.
Despite the name, there is no Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the band, though Kim Deal's fans may beg to differ.
Their discography's length is inversely proportional to its influence:
- Come on Pilgrim EP (1987): A sort of "teaser" for their actual career, produced by Gary Smith. One of its tunes, the Spanish-language-wrecking "Vamos", was re-recorded for the next album.
- Surfer Rosa (1988): Their raw Grunge album, produced by Steve Albini, with probably the largest predominance of more "comedic"/light-hearted tunes in their catalogue, like the goofy "Tony's Theme", the Bilingual Bonus "Oh My Golly!" or the comic malevolence of "Something Against You". Source of the band's first single, "Gigantic", notable for being written and sung mainly by Kim Deal, and the word salady meditation on fish behaviour "Where Is My Mind?", which somehow became very popular for movie soundtracks.
- Doolittle (1989): Where they hooked up with Gil Norton, who stuck with them for the remainder of their career. Has a more polished production, slightly more nightmarish in spots especially when Francis showcases his awesome lungpower ("Debaser"), contains their Black Sheep Hit "Here Comes Your Man" and the offbeat ballad about pollution "Monkey Gone to Heaven", which provides the page quote. This was their first album after a deal with signed with Elektra Records, who would distribute their albums in the USA while 4AD handled the UK.
- Bossanova (1990): Recorded after the band and Norton moved to Los Angeles, this is the album where Francis took complete control of the band and marginalised Deal. A much shinier, heavily Surf Rock-influenced effort ("Cecilia Ann") whose lyrical obsession with space and UFOs complements its Psychedelic Rock sound. Contains the successful single "Dig for Fire", "Velouria" (famous for its slapdash, slow-motion abusing video) and some of their mellower material ("Ana", "Havalina"). It got their best chart performance in the UK (#3), while Elektra's resources meant that they started getting extra attention back home.
- Trompe le Monde (1991): Maintaining the shiny spacey sound of the previous effort but much more Heavy Metal-influenced (Francis attributed this to recording next door to Ozzy Osbourne), showcases the band at their most Badass (the furiously fast "Planet of Sound", the "Head On" cover, the cowbell-featuring Take That "U-Mass"), while making enough room for melodic ("Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons") and mellow material ("The Navajo Know"). Former Pere Ubu keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman contributes keyboards and went on to collaborate with Francis and PJ Harvey.
- Complete 'B' Sides (2001): Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Well, almost: it's missing two live performances.
Tropes used by Pixies:
- Academy of Adventure - Implied by "Weird at My School".
- Album Title Drop - The EP Come On Pilgrim takes its name from a line in "Levitate Me." Similarly, Doolittle is mentioned in "Mr. Grieves." And Surfer Rosa is said in "Oh My Golly!". Trompe le Monde doesn't have this, but it makes up for that by having a song called "Trompe le Monde", the only Pixies album to have a titular track.
- And Bossanova comes from its song "Hang Wire"
- Author Appeal - Black Francis likes writing about: the Bible, science-fiction, and surrealism, not necessarily in that order. With frequent references to squicky behaviour (mutilation, Eye Scream, incest, the works), and just plain non-sequitur lines.
- Anti-Love Song - "La La Love You" is as a parody, "Hey" is weird enough, and "U-Mass" is a takedown of pretentious student types.
- Bald of Awesome - Francis. And Santiago. And Lovering. Actually, Deal's the only one with hair by this point.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed - "Gigantic".
- Bilingual Bonus - The lyrics of "Oh My Golly!"
- Black Sheep Hit - "Here Comes Your Man", possibly also "Where Is My Mind?"
- Book Ends - Doolittle begins and ends with a song about Eye Scream.
- Boston - The city's most famous Alternative Rock band.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick - "Bone Machine" has the line He bought me a soda and tried to molest me in the parking lot, yep, yep, yep, yep! before the second chorus, "Dead" towards the end has a verse that goes Uriah hit the crapper, dead!, and "Hey" starts off like a love song but gets derailed by the time Francis starts singing about the whores in his bed.
- Breakup Breakout - Francis went on to an acclaimed solo career, and Kim founded The Breeders.
- Careful with That Axe - Francis.
- Contemptible Cover: Surfer Rosa.
- The cover for the "Gigantic" single takes it up a level, with a naked baby.
- Cover Version - "Head On" by The Jesus and Mary Chain, "I've Been Waiting For You" and "Winterlong," both by Neil Young, "Evil Hearted You" by The Yardbirds (en Español!), "In Heaven" from the film Eraserhead, the theme from the videogame NARC. With the exception of "Head On", every other cover they did was a b-side.
- Epic Song - "Motorway to Roswell", much more epic than any song about an alien's vacation gone wrong has the right to be. Shame it's not the last song on Trompe le Monde.
- Eye Scream: "Gouge Away", "Debaser".
- A Good Name for a Rock Band - Joey found the word in a dictionary, and they liked it enough to use it as a band name.
- Gratuitous Spanish - Plenty, and
- I Am the Band - Francis pulled this. The band broke up as a result.
- Intercourse with You - "Gigantic", arguably "Hey" and "U-Mass".
- In the Style Of - Francis admitted "Dig for Fire" was basically a tribute to the Talking Heads.
- Jerkass - Francis officially confirmed the band's dissolution in a BBC interview in 1993 without the others' knowledge, and then proceeded to notify them about it by fax and phone.
- Kubrick Stare - Santiago does this in the video for "Here Comes Your Man".
- Last-Note Nightmare - "Where Is My Mind?"
- Looped Lyrics - Used to awesome effect in "Stormy Weather." And to Badass effect in the chorus of "Planet of Sound".
- Lyrical Dissonance - "Wave of Mutilation", "Gigantic", "Here Comes Your Man", "Debaser" etc etc.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - Talking Heads meets Velvet Underground infused with surf rock, punk, and a dash of vaguely Spanish guitar (topped off with a little something called the next twenty years of rock music).
- New Sound Album - see above.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Black Francis.
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice - Kim mainly. Francis would count if he didn't do the epic Careful with That Axe so often.
- Precision F-Strike - On Trompe le Monde, "Planet of Sound" has "THIS AIN'T NO FUCKING AROUND" (it sounds like that) and "U-Mass" has "Oh kiss me cunt/Oh kiss my cock/Oh kiss my ass/Oh let it rock".
- Real Life Writes the Plot - "Where Is My Mind?" was inspired by Francis' experiences scuba diving in the Caribbean.
Francis: [I had] this very small fish trying to chase me. I don't know why—I don't know too much about fish behavior.
- Record Producer - Gary Smith, Steve Albini and Gil Norton.
- Shout-Out - To Un Chien Andalou in "Debaser."
- The title of Come On Pilgrim is a lyric by Christian Rock pioneer Larry Norman, whose music Francis was a fan of.
- The Smurfette Principle - Kim Deal.
- Stage Names - Francis' real name is Charles Thompson. For Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa, Deal was credited as "Mrs. John Murphy" as a feminist joke at the expense of a woman who told her she wanted to be known as "Mrs. <her husband's name>".
- Soprano and Gravel - Black Francis' alternately screaming and normal vocals, in contrast with Kim Deal's more girlish vocals.
- Spelling Song - The band spells out "P-I-X-I-E-S" in the bridge of "Cactus".
- Look at the lyrics to "Ana", look at the first letter in each line of "Ana", what does it spell? S-U-R-F-E-R
- Don't Spell My Name with a "The" - It's officially just "Pixies", but there's no law against adding a "The" at the start.
- Step Up to the Microphone - "Gigantic" and the cover of "I've Been Waiting For You" has lead vocals by Kim Deal (and she does backing vocals on quite a few tunes), while "La La Love You" and the B-side "Make Believe" are sung by David Lovering (who also adds backing vocals to the previously-mentioned "I've Been Waiting for You").
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Vamos" gives us this stanza
They'll come and play
- Surreal Humour - Francis loves this.
- Take That - "U-Mass" is a slap at the University of Massachussetts, which Francis and Santiago dropped out of to form the band. "Subbacultcha" also arguably mocks the university-aged segment of their audience (with lines like I was wearing eyeliner/She was wearing eyeliner).
- Theremin - Used in "Velouria", "The Happening" and the B-side "The Thing" (which is a preliminary sketch of "The Happening").
- This Is a Song about a superhero named Tony! It's called "Tony's Theme!" *rocking ensues*
- Three Chords and the Truth
- Throw It In - Steve Albini immortalised two sequences of Studio Chatter on Surfer Rosa: Francis' "You fuckin' DIE, I said!" between "Oh My Golly!" and "Vamos", and Deal's recounting of a teacher who was rumoured to be "into field hockey players" at the start of "I'm Amazed".
- Title-Only Chorus - "TAAAAAAME!"
- "Dig for Fire" almost qualifies for this since the chorus is just I'm digging for fire repeated until it's time for another verse.
- "Tony's Theme" has a chorus of "TO-NY!" repeated as long as it needs.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The passage of "Monkey Gone to Heaven" quoted above.
- Where Da White Women At?: The subject of "Gigantic". The lyrics were inspired by a movie with this subject named Crimes Of The Heart.
- Word Salad Lyrics - Often. Francis even admitted that when recording Bossanova, he'd "write lyrics on napkins 5 minutes before recording".
- John Murphy was Deal's husband at the time