Friday, 24 July 2015
Oliver: The Pixies [Peel Session] (21 December 1991)
So having had a single track on the 14 December 1991 show introduce me to the brilliance of The Pixies, this programme had a whole session to salivate over.
What a remarkable band The Pixies were. Looking at them from nearly a quarter of a century's distance, I'm struck by how such a bunch of un-rock 'n' roll looking people could produce music that rocked as brilliantly and vibrantly as The Pixies did. Drummer David Lovering looked like he spent all day cruising gymnasiums to work up the muscles to propel the songs along; Joey Santiago sounded like he loved nothing better after a hard day's work on Computer Aided Design programs than to pick up a guitar and pull out mind-bendingly amazing riffs from it; because she looked like the world's oldest exchange student, Kim Deal didn't provide much glamour, but her serpentine bass lines and street punk backing vocals were a cornerstone to The Pixies's sound. Finally there was Frank Black (hereafter to be referred to as Black Francis) the demented poet/surf wannabe at the heart of it all - striking a blow for the mighty pantheon of slightly overweight men in rock: Jerry Garcia, Chris Burney of Bowling for Soup and err..Buster Bloodvessel. Best of all, they remained true to their roots in that all their little packages of sonic fireworks could be delivered in 3 minutes 30. Anything more than that was wasting everyone's time.
There were a number of recurring styles that cropped up in Pixies tunes: overlooked Americana, interpersonal relationships that were sliding into disrepair, oddball character sketches and reportage from ghastly sounding parties/get-togethers in which the narrator sounded as gone as everyone around him. This session had all that and more. Starting with a track about Salt Lake in Utah, Palace of the Brine is what I'm going to call any chip shop that I ever open. Letter to Memphis is a doozy of a love song about the desire to communicate and why we go through the most long winded ways to do so (especially pertinent in those pre-email days of 1991). Motorway to Roswell is my favourite track of the four with Black Francis pondering the mindset of the Roswell alien and how its vacation went tragically wrong:
How could this so great, turn so shitty.
He ended up in army crates
And photographs in files.
The performance is classic Pixies, with Santiago providing some superb lead work over the rock solid rhythm section.
The session concludes with the mini rap-rock of Subbacultcha, a heart warming mini-epic about how a pick up in a club can lead to a happy relationship, drug running in Panama.
Four albums in, The Pixies were still putting this brand of idiosyncratic rock together better than
anyone else. Peel had interviewed Black Francis a few months before this programme at the time
that The Pixies album, Trompe Le Monde had been released. He declared it one of the greatest albums he had ever heard and there were a number of reviews that took the same line. Seemingly at
the peak of their powers, the world would surely be theirs as the 90s progressed. Alas no. Remember what I said about catching the fag end of things? Well, it's happened again here. Within two years of this show, the band had split. Deal went off to concentrate on The Breeders, Francis worked on his solo career - they both feature on my 2002 tapes. Eventually they reformed as the original quartet in 2004 and became a going concern as a touring band, before finally recording a follow-up to Trompe le Monde: 2014's Indie Cindy album.
Video courtesy of Vibracobra23