Pixies – Sell Out
February 20, 2006
It was the tour that no one thought would ever happen. In 1992, the Pixies were on top of the world. While they hadn’t quite broken through into the mainstream in the United States, they were a huge hit in England, almost reaching stadium status. They played some of the largest European rock ‘n’ roll festivals and even opened for U2. And then their lead singer Black Francis announced that the band had broken up. Naturally, the rumour mill went crazy with the scuttlebutt being a clash of egos that resulted in their demise. Bassist Kim Deal wanted to write and sing more songs while Francis had always maintained absolute control. He went off to a modestly successful solo career as Frank Black while Deal went on to form The Breeders who had a hugely successful debut album before imploding amidst substance abuse from Kim and her sister Kelly.
Francis and Deal seemed as if they would never bury the hatchet and fans would never see their beloved band together again. And then it was announced last year that the Pixies were indeed going to be re-forming for a tour in select cities in Europe and the U.S. Anticipation was high and, if you were lucky enough to see them live, reportedly they did not disappoint. Now, you can get an idea of what it was like with this new DVD that gives you a sample of the band live in concert.
The Pixies were known for producing some of the rawest, most primal punk-pop music that was summed up best by one critic who described it as “some of the most riff-drunk, primal rock ‘n’ roll, gutteral hallelujahs this side of a speeded-up 1972 Stones album with the ballads taken out.” One only has to listen to an album like Doolittle to hear the seeds for what would later result in Nirvana’s Nevermind.
The bulk of the tracks on the DVD are culled from a July 3, 2004 concert the band performed at the Eurockeennes Festival in Belfort, France. The bulk of the songs come from their early work – Come on Pilgrim and Surferosa with a healthy dose of Doolittle and a smattering of Trompe Le Monde.
It’s great to see one of the best bands to come along in the last 20 years back together in fine form and you can tell that the huge throngs of sold-out crowds in these venues are absolutely thrilled to be there and ecstatic about the band’s reunion as well. The band looks good. All of the guys have lost (or shaved off) their hair and they sound great. Kim Deal still has an incredibly sexy voice (it’s great to hear her sing their cover of “In Heaven” instead of Black Francis who traditionally sings it) and her bass playing along with David Lovering’s drumming provide the strong backbone of the band which allows Joey Santiago’s guitar to soar as he coaxes all sorts of incredible sounds out of it.
Black Francis’ voice sounds as ferocious as it ever did. He gives it a good workout on “Something Against You” and “U-Mass,” the latter a giddy, psychotic ode to the University of Massachusetts. Later on, he tears it up on “Tame,” alternating between almost-whispered verses and deranged howling choruses. Joey is still the unsung, low-key guitar god he always was, delivering the insanely catchy riffs that the Pixies were revered for.
They pull out such memorable hits like “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” along with underrated gems like the surreal “Subbacultcha.” The only minor, personal caveat I have with the DVD is the short shrift given to the criminally underrated and much maligned Bossanova album. Only a dreamy, surf-soaked rendition of “Velouria” is played in their set. Also, their misunderstood swan song, Trompe Le Monde is also largely ignored in favour of older material.
The Pixies matter as a band because they are responsible for some of the most memorable punk-pop-surf songs ever recorded. Unlike so many bands after them, their songs have a weight and substance that holds up to repeated listenings. Their songs are well-constructed and stick in your brain. Instead of being relegated to obscurity, it seems that their fanbase has only grown since their break-up in ’92. And now patient fans have been rewarded with their resurrection. Let’s hope that this is a sign of more things to come.
There is a selection of 14 songs performed on the 2004 tour all over the world with optional interview segments from two of their long-time tour crew members. The band rips through “Debaser” in Scotland and pulls out “No. 13 Baby” in Lowell, MA. The latter is a song that you don’t hear played live often. One of my personal favourites, “Planet of Sound” gets a fine workout in New Orleans while the Bossanova album is shown more love with a nice rendition of “Is She Weird” in Lowell, MA.
Finally, there is “MX Monkey’s Choice” which allows you to switch from six different angles with your DVD remote while watching a live version of “Monkey Gone to Heaven.”