Pixies - Pixies
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
Whether you picture the Pixies as the great saviors of rock, or the most overrated band of all time, you have to agree that they were extremely influential. The opening chord of "Here Comes Your Man" for example, must have launched a hundred rock bands by itself. Through their entire career, they crafted some of indie’s most memorable gems. Songs would rush into your life, smacking you with crazy early 90s reverb, twangy guitars, catchy bass and simply unhuman vocals. Though, in the beginning, they didn’t have the reverb, the bass was muffled, and the vocals were quite human.
Pixies documents these earliest Pixies tunes. After hearing the Pixies’ seventeen song demo, their record company decided that they would release the eight strongest songs as their first mini-album, which became Come On Pilgrim . As we know, the Pixies went on to much fame and wealth (or at least that’s what Frank Black and Kim Deal would have you believe, having released countless mediocre "solo" albums between them.) Having said that, this CD is essentially a collection of rejects from that initial release.
If you are totally in love with the Pixies, you have probably already heard all these songs, either by some Internet leak of the early demos or by having heard more mature forms of the songs off of later studio albums. I would not advise this CD for a novice Pixie fan, as it presents the group as a weak shadow of the group they would become. "In Heaven" is a good example of this. Rather than the sheer force portrayed on the later recording, this version shows us a muted and weak reading of a song that, frankly, isn’t too strong in the first place.
The version of "Here Comes Your Man" presented here is a poor rendition of the later song that came to be. The aforementioned opening chord isn’t even present here, replaced instead by a "normal" chord strummed nonthreateningly by an acoustic guitar. Parts of the song are switched about, presenting an unsuccessfully realized pop song, rather than the wonderful slice of college rock it went on to become. I suppose it is a bit interesting to hear the band before they were great, but couldn’t you just save yourself the worry and get your hands on a copy of Pixies at the BBC instead?
Rather than the masterfully sleazy groove that would become "Subbacultcha", we get the group riffing their way through some quasi-REM muck. Frank Black’s voice is not quite up to par here, rather than the otherworldly squawk we get to hear some guy talking his way through an otherwise intriguing story. There are a few changes to this song too, but that’s not important. None of this is important. These are weak versions of Pixies tunes that end up not being worth the time and money of most fans of the band.
By: Tyler Martin
Published on: 2003-09-02