Pixies still moving into the future, criticisms or no
The Pixies were a lot of people's favorite band in the late '80s and early '90s. There was nothing else like them — their weird, singular energy and warped grasp of melody and noise appealed to misfits of every stripe. They were Kurt Cobain's favorite band, and he invented entire genres of music trying to capture their sound.
But there's a certain pressure that comes with this peculiar status. It also can be a burden, a steep mountain to climb just to meet all those lofty expectations.
The Pixies disbanded somewhat acrimoniously in 1993. They got back together in 2004, selling out many gigs in minutes. Then, they spent two years (117 shows around the world) playing their classic album “Doolittle” (1989) front-to-back.
After all this, the band — which is coming to the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Jan. 25 — wanted to switch it up a little. Or rather, some of them did. New songs were recorded for the first time since 1991, released recently as “EP-1” and “EP-2.”
However, bassist/singer Kim Deal quit, for reasons that still aren't 100 percent clear. A substitute, Kim Shattuck, was shown the door after a few months. Now, they have Paz Lechantin (of A Perfect Circle).
Cue the backlash. The new songs weren't received well, giving the Pixies their first bad reviews ever, really.
“The critics are going to keep comparing it to ‘Doolittle' or ‘Surfer Rosa,' but we've progressed from there,” explains guitarist Joey Santiago. “If we have to choose between delving into the past or moving into the future, we'd rather err on the side of the future.”
Deal's departure is still sort of mysterious. Her deadpan vocals, left-field harmonies and classic-country leanings always provided a perfect foil for main singer-songwriter Black Francis' (aka Frank Black) surreal, destructive outbursts. It was no secret that they didn't get along.
“Yeah, she's a hard shoe to fill,” Santiago admits.
“We did have that one dinner, like, a goodbye dinner. A last supper. Being gentlemen, we always pay for the meal. This time, she wanted to get it,” he says. “In hindsight, she kept hinting that she had just grown out of it — or grown out of us. Or, she knew we were touring the hell out of these new songs. If she was going to put that much energy into touring, she'd probably rather do it with her other successful vehicle, The Breeders. That's the only way I can make sense of it.”
Santiago isn't worried about the acceptance of the new songs. They definitely sound like Pixies songs, with Santiago's signature spiky, angular guitar lines suddenly crashing like waves on the beach.
“I like it,” he says. “It's that simple. And people are coming around to it. I think one of our albums got a different rating (at first) — it might have been ‘Doolittle.' Someone who gave it three stars at first, then, (years) later, gave it five. People will come around on this one.”
If the present and future are a bit hazy, so is the past.
Occasionally, they'll even claim that the Pixies never broke up at all — they just went on tour in outer space.
“It was weightless and heavy at the same time,” says Santiago, with a laugh. “I'd be floating in space, and then land on a planet where the gravity is just overwhelming.”
The Pixies are here for good now, though.
“We obviously want this go keep going,” Santiago says. “Next recording, we're thinking of is (going to be) a lot harder.”
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.