At the time it might have just seemed like another band breaking up but their inﬂuence has been felt far and wide, particularly in Nirvana and Radiohead, two of the biggest bands to follow them. Both also went on to play a hand in killing off indie as it was. It has been stated many times already that there would have been no Nirvana without the Pixies, but to blame Kurt Cobain for destroying indie isn’t totally fair. With Nirvana — an alternative rock band who became a huge commercial success — the very notion of indie ceased to make sense any more. What was previously the alternative had become the mainstream. Oasis consolidated that notion three years later by being a band on an indie label — Creation — who went on to rule the entire musical world. Alternative and the idea of indie as a concept or aspiration ceased to mean anything. Today, the division is blurred and we only have little rock bands and big rock bands. The underground still exists, of course, but as a far more hazin deﬁned beast than it ever was in the late 80s.
They might have been the catalyst for musical change but the question remains: why are the Pixies so revered? What was it that they did that was so good?
They were much more than a distraction from the E-fuelled excess of baggy and acid house, and left more of a musical legacy than simply inspiring a million teens to stomp distortion pedals into quiet-loud-quiet—loud inﬁnity. What the Pixies did was much more than that. As David Bowie so succinctly put it, they ‘changed the format for delivery of hard rock‘. Bono’s claim that Charles Thompson was ‘one of the finest songwriters ever to come out of America, leading one of the ﬁnest bands ever to come out of America’ might sound like hyperbole but it’s not without foundation. The songs stand the test of time even 12 years after their creation.
It is Badly Drawn Boy who best sums up what is so special about the Pixies. ‘You can pick the Stone Roses with their debut album as a truly seminal band, even if their music lent itself to a lot of other music, but with the Pixies . . . I really struggle to find a comparison.’
From far left: The Pixies perform their first live show together in over 1 1 years. The set list for that
‘ evening in Minneapolis.
All of which brings us nicely to today. Just over six months after their low key return in Minneapolis where they played to a few hundred people, they are the hottest live ticket in the world. The 19,000 tickets for their four Brixton Academy gigs sold out in less than two hours. And every date of their headlining US tour has sold out. In fact, one could argue that the presence of the Pixies on the T in the Park bill could account (in part, at least) to the festival selling out so rapidly this year.
New output since their reformation has amounted to just one song. ‘Bam Thwok’, a throwaway pop ditty written by Kim Deal, made number one on iTunes’ download-only chart. This is a slight offering perhaps but there is the promise of more to come if all goes well.
The Pixies are returning to claim a prize they never quite got to enjoy the first time round, like the Pistols before them. It might be about the money (they have already admitted in part that it is) but it‘s also about seeing where they can take it from here. As Joey Santiago puts it: ‘We stopped when we were up here, we never got into that dip so we never knew just how much further we could go.’
We’ll hopefully find out soon enough.
The Pixies play the Main Stage at T in the Park on Sun 1 1 Jul. Pixies DVD is out now on 4AD Records. Thanks to Ed at 4A0.
Its been over a decade between the Pixies splitting and reforming, but what have they been doing in between? Mark Robertson
equally great follow-up Teenager of the Year. He then hooked up with backing band the Catholics to make another five albums. He played T in the Park in his own right in 1996. Very popular in France, apparently.
still in the Pixies in 1990 with Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses. After the split, her twin sister Kelley replaced Donnelly on guitar. A follow up to their debut Pod. entitled Last Splash, was well received but a couple of years in, Kelley got wrapped up in hard drugs and Kim dissolved the band to form the Amps. They released one album, Pacer but. by the time it came out. Kelley had sorted herself out and the Breeders reformed and recorded their magic comeback album, Tit/e TK, in 2002. Their last shows together were notable for their rendition of the theme to Buffy the Vamp/re Slayer.
McNarIand before forming the Martinis with his wife Linda. They knocked out some demos with long time Pixies producer Gil Norton, backed by David Lovering, some members of Counting Crows and Linda's sister. Lovering left and their debut album Smitten came out quietly on
and Tanya Donnelly. He swapped the sticks for lab coat in 2000. however, and took the stage as a “scientific phenomenalist'. This mixed his loves of ‘card trickery, metal detection and science' and he made his mark in the UK at Shellac's All Tomorrow's Parties in 2002.
Black Francis AKA Charles Thompson By far the most prolific of the four, he released three solo albums under the moniker Frank Black including the excellent eponymous first and its
Kim Deal With her songwriting duties sidelined by Charles' place at the centre of the Pixies. it wasn't surprising when Kim reconvened the Breeders — the band she had formed while
Joey Santiago After working as guitar for hire on Frank Black's first two albums. Santiago brought his six strings to bear on recordings by Sebadoh, Steve Westfield and Holly
David Lovering The one with by far the most varied of post- Pixies careers, Lovering claimed he wanted to join Depeche Mode but ended up playing with Nitzer Ebb. Cracker
8—22 Jul 2004 THE LIST 15