The Eagles declared “Hell Freezes Over” when they reunited a few years ago, and indie rock fans are about to feel the same way.
In April, the legendary Pixies will reunite for the first time in over a decade. The notoriously quarrelsome quartet have buried the hatchet, clearing the way for all four original members to hop onstage together for a world tour, according to a spokesperson for the band.
If all goes as planned, the triumphant return of one of the most influential rock bands of the late ’80s might also be followed by a new studio album, the source said. The band has not yet gotten together to begin rehearsing for the tour, but, given their ugly breakup in 1993, the announcement is one of the most unlikely and anticipated reunions in the history of indie rock.
Singer/guitarist Black Francis (real name Charles Michael Kitteridge Thompson IV), bassist/singer Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering got together in Boston as the Pixies in 1986. The band immediately gained a cult following and critical acclaim for their signature blend of screaming punk noise, surf influences and jagged guitar riffs mixed with impossible-to-ignore melodic hooks and Francis’ bizarre lyrics about space, sex, religion and mutilation.
Their debut EP, Come on Pilgrim, was released in 1987, followed by
1988’s abrasively catchy full-length debut, Surfer Rosa. By the time they recorded Doolittle that same year with producer Gil Norton (who, thanks to his work with the Pixies, would go on to produce everyone from Foo Fighters to the Distillers), the buzz on the Pixies was deafening. The band scored modern rock hits from that album with the songs “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man.”
Tensions were already running high in 1990 when the Pixies went on hiatus and Francis mounted a solo tour. Deal formed the Breeders with former Throwing Muses member Tanya Donelly as an outlet for her songs, which she was struggling to get onto Pixies albums. Her inability to share the recorded spotlight with Francis was one of the primary reasons for her strained relations with the enigmatic singer.
The Pixies came back together in late 1990 to record Bossanova with Norton, but personality clashes continued, inspiring Deal to announce from the stage that the band was breaking up during an English date in support of the album.
Despite her proclamation, the group held things together long enough to record 1991’s Trompe Le Monde. They went out on their final U.S. tour during the spring of 1992 when they opened for U2 on the massive Zoo TV extravaganza. Following those dates, they again went on hiatus as Francis recorded his solo debut and Deal cut an EP with the Breeders.
Francis changed his name to Frank Black later that year (inspiring the name of the lead character in the apocalyptic television series “Millennium”) and faxed the group a statement announcing their breakup. He went on to record a string of often bizarre solo albums that aimed for the same mix of noise and melody as the Pixies, but failed to connect with a mass audience. Deal scored a hit in 1993 with the unexpectedly popular Breeders single “Cannonball,” while Lovering and Santiago formed a group called the Martinis in 1995.
Ironically, the very alternative rock sound the Pixies helped to revolutionize exploded onto the public consciousness soon after their demise, with bands such as Nirvana paying frequent and loving tribute to their heroes.
In July, Black told London’s XFM Radio that he still dreams about a Pixies reunion and he revealed that the group occasionally gets together for informal jam sessions, “but not for public consumption.” Black said his fantasies of a reunion were like “those schoolboy dreams when you don’t do your homework and you don’t study for the test. I’m at the gig and we’re hanging out, but it’s an utter failure and I don’t know the songs and hardly anyone turns up for the gig and people walk out. That’s what I’m afraid of … that it’d be a big, big failure.”
For a look back at the way the Pixies were, check out
the MTV News feature “Death to the Pixies.”