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Combining jagged, roaring guitars and stop-start dynamics with melodic pop hooks, intertwining male-female harmonies, andevocative, cryptic lyrics, the Pixies were one of the most influential American alternative rock bands of the late '80s. thePixies weren't accomplished musicians -- Black Francis wailed and bashed out chords while Joey Santiago's lead guitarsquealed out spirals of noise. But the bandmembers were inventive, rabid rock fans who turned conventions inside out,melding punk and indie guitar rock, classic pop, surf rock, and stadium-sized riffs with singer/guitarist Black Francis' ...read more
Combining jagged, roaring guitars and stop-start dynamics with melodic pop hooks, intertwining male-female harmonies, andevocative, cryptic lyrics, the Pixies were one of the most influential American alternative rock bands of the late '80s. thePixies weren't accomplished musicians -- Black Francis wailed and bashed out chords while Joey Santiago's lead guitarsquealed out spirals of noise. But the bandmembers were inventive, rabid rock fans who turned conventions inside out,melding punk and indie guitar rock, classic pop, surf rock, and stadium-sized riffs with singer/guitarist Black Francis' bizarre,fragmented lyrics about space, religion, sex, mutilation, and pop culture; while the meaning of his lyrics may have beenimpenetrable, the music was direct and forceful.
the Pixies' busy, brief songs, extreme dynamics, and subversion of pop song structures proved one of the touchstones of '90salternative rock. From grunge to Brit-pop, the Pixies' shadow loomed large -- it's hard to imagine Nirvana without the Pixies'signature stop-start dynamics and lurching, noisy guitar solos. While the Pixies were touted as the band to bring indie rockinto the mainstream, they simply laid the groundwork for the alternative explosion of the early '90s. MTV was reluctant toplay their videos, while even modern rock radio didn't put their singles into regular rotation. Furthermore, tensions betweenleader Black Francis and bassist/vocalist Kim Deal, who wanted to incorporate her songs into the band's repertoire, crippledthe band's progress. By the time Nirvana broke the doors down for alternative rock in 1992, the Pixies were effectively brokenup.
the Pixies were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 by Charles Thompson and his roommate Joey Santiago. Born inMassachusetts and constantly shuttling between there and California, Thompson began playing music as a teenager, beforehe moved to the East Coast for good during high school. Following graduation, he became an anthropology major at theUniversity of Massachusetts. Halfway through his studies at the college, he went to Puerto Rico to study Spanish, and aftersix months he decided to move back to the U.S. to form a band. Thompson dropped out of school and moved to Boston,managing to persuade Santiago to join him. Advertising in a music paper for a bassist who liked "Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul &Mary," the duo recruited Kim Deal (who was billed as Mrs. John Murphey on the group's first two records), who had previouslyplayed with her twin sister Kelly in the folk-rock garage band the Breeders in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio. On the advice ofDeal, the group recruited drummer David Lovering. Inspired by Iggy Pop, Thompson picked the stage name Black Francis andthe group named itself the Pixies after Santiago randomly flipped through the dictionary.
By the fall, the Pixies had played enough gigs to land a supporting slot for fellow Boston band Throwing Muses. At the Musesconcert, Gary Smith, an artist manager and producer at Boston's Fort Apache studios, heard the group and offered to recordthem. In March 1987, the Pixies recorded 18 songs over the course of three days. The demo, dubbed The Purple Tape, wasgiven to key players within the Boston musical community and the international alternative scene, including Ivo Watts, thehead of England's 4AD Records. Impressed with the cassette, Watts signed the band and released eight of the demo's songsas the EP Come On Pilgrim in 1987.
The Pixies convened to record their first full-length album, Surfer Rosa, with producer Steve Albini, who had pioneered thethin, abrasive indie-guitar grind with Big Black. Albini gave the band a harder-edged, abrasive guitar sound, yet the groupretained its melodic hooks. Released in the spring of 1988, Surfer Rosa earned enthusiastic reviews from the British weeklymusic press and became a college radio hit in America; in the U.K., the album made inroads on the pop charts. By the end ofthe year, the buzz on the Pixies had become substantial, and the group signed to Elektra Records. At the end of 1988, thegroup re-entered the studio, this time with British producer Gil Norton. Released in the spring of 1989, Doolittle boasted acleaner sound and received excellent reviews, which led to greater exposure in America. "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "HereComes Your Man" became Top Ten modern rock hits, clearing the way for Doolittle to peak at number 98 on the U.S. charts;in the U.K., it entered the charts at number eight. Throughout their career, the Pixies were more popular in Britain and Europethan America, as evidenced by the success of the Sex and Death tour. The band became notorious for Black Francis'motionless performances, which were offset by Deal's charmingly earthy sense of humor. The tour itself became infamous forthe band's in-jokes, such as playing their entire set list in alphabetical order. By the completion of their second American tourfor Doolittle at the end of 1989, the group had begun to tire of each other and decided to take a hiatus during the beginningof 1990.
During the hiatus, Black Francis went on a brief solo tour and Kim Deal formed a group with Tanya Donnelly from the ThrowingMuses and bassist Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster, naming it after her teenage band, the Breeders. the Breedersrecorded the Albini-produced Pod, which appeared on 4AD in early summer 1990, shortly after the Pixies reconvened to recordtheir third album with Gil Norton. More atmospheric than its predecessors, and relying heavily on Francis' surf rock obsession,Bossanova was released in the fall of 1990; unlike Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, it contained no songs by Deal. Bossanova wasgreeted with decidedly mixed reviews, but the record became a college hit, generating the modern rock hits "Velouria" and"Dig for Fire" in the U.S. In Europe, the record expanded the group's popularity, hitting number three on the U.K. album chartsand paving the way for their headlining appearance at the Reading Festival. Though the supporting tours for Bossanova weresuccessful, tension continued to grow between Kim Deal and Black Francis -- at the conclusion of their English tour, Dealannounced from the stage of the Brixton Academy that the concert was "our last show..
While the Pixies did cancel their planned American tour, due to "exhaustion," the band reconvened in the spring of 1991 torecord its fourth album, again with Gil Norton. Hiring former Captain Beefheart and Pere Ubu keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman asan auxiliary member, the band moved back toward loud rock, claiming to be inspired by the presence of Ozzy Osbourne in aneighboring studio. Upon its fall release, Trompe le Monde was hailed by some as a welcome return to the sound of SurferRosa and Doolittle, but closer inspection revealed that it relied heavily on sonic detail and featured very few vocals by Dealand none of her songs. The band embarked on another international tour, playing stadiums in Europe but theaters in America.During the spring of 1992, the Pixies opened for U2 on the opening leg of the Zoo TV tour; it would be their last trek throughthe United States. Upon the conclusion of the Zoo TV tour the Pixies went on hiatus, with Deal returning to the Breeders,who released the EP Safari later that spring. Francis began working on a solo album.
As he was preparing to release his solo debut, Francis gave an interview on BBC's Radio 5, announcing that the Pixies weredisbanding. He hadn't yet informed the other members; later that day, he faxed them his statement. Inverting his stage nameto Frank Black, Francis released his eponymous debut that spring to mixed reviews; over the next few years, Frank Black'saudience gradually shrank to a small cult following. the Breeders released their second album, Last Splash, in the fall of 1993.The album became a surprise hit, going gold in the U.S. and spawning the hit single "Cannonball." Soon after, Deal also formedthe Amps, who released their one (and only) album, Pacer, in 1995. Santiago and Lovering formed the Martinis in 1995 andappeared on the soundtrack to Empire Records. Although 4AD began issuing archival Pixies releases, including Death to thePixies 1987-1991, Pixies at the BBC, and Complete B-Sides in the late '90s and early 2000s, those were relatively quiet yearsfor the band's members.
After releasing the disappointing The Cult of Ray for American in 1996, Black shuffled between different labels before endingup at spinART for 1999's Pistolero, where he also released his subsequent solo albums, most of which were met with a fair-to-middling response. Deal and the rest of the Breeders, meanwhile, suffered from problems ranging from substance abuse towriter's block, and only surfaced intermittently, spending time in the studio but only having a cover of the Three Degrees'"Collage" on the soundtrack to 1999's The Mod Squad to show for their efforts until they released Title TK in 2002. DavidLovering left the Martinis and became the touring drummer for Cracker, and also appeared on Donelly's Sliding and Diving, butfound himself unemployed in the late '90s. Combining his studies in electronic engineering at Wentworth Institute ofTechnology and his years of performing experience, Lovering dubbed himself a "scientific phenomenalist," a cross between ascientist, performance artist, and magician, and warmed up the crowds at Frank Black, Breeders, Camper Van Beethoven, andGrant Lee Buffalo concerts. Santiago and his wife Linda Mallari continued the Martinis through the '90s, recording severaldemos and self-released albums. Santiago also began a career composing soundtracks and incidental music, beginning withthe score for 2000's Crime & Punishment in Suburbia, to which Black also contributed a track.
At the time, rumors circulated that Santiago would join Black on-stage during one of his London dates on the Dog in the Sandtour; though this didn't happen, it at least sparked hopes that the Pixies would eventually reunite. These hopes seemedunfounded until 2003, when Black revealed in an interview that he had considered reuniting the band and that he, Deal,Santiago, and Lovering occasionally got together to jam. Soon after, it was confirmed that the Pixies would reunite in 2004for U.S. tours in the spring and fall; an appearance at that year's Coachella festival; and gigs in Europe and the U.K. thatsummer, including performances at the T in the Park, Roskilde, Pinkpop, and V festivals. All 15 of the band's North Americanwarm-up tour dates were recorded and released in limited editions of 1,000 copies, which were sold online and at the shows.The week after the Pixies' Coachella appearance, the long-awaited DVD retrospective Pixies and revamped best-of Wave ofMutilation: The Best of Pixies were released by 4AD. The band also released two songs, "Bam Thwok" and a cover of WarrenZevon's "Ain't That Pretty at All," in 2004. Despite the Pixies touring regularly throughout the 2000s and 2010s, no more newmusic appeared until 2013, when the group went into the studio with longtime producer Gil Norton. During those sessions,Deal officially left the group. Bassist Simon Archer, aka Ding, replaced Deal in the studio, and the band hired the Muffs' KimShattuck for touring duties. "Bagboy," the Pixies' first new song in nine years, arrived in July 2013. That September, theyself-released EP1, the first in a scheduled series of EPs, via their website. That November, Shattuck was let go from theband; a few weeks later, Paz Lenchantin -- who also played with Zwan and A Perfect Circle -- was drafted as the Pixies'bassist. EP 2 arrived in January 2014. « hide
Similar Bands: Frank Black, Nirvana, The Breeders, R.E.M., Pavement
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