Something new from the Pixie vaults, even after last year's definitive best-of compilation, Death to the Pixies? Well, not exactly. Pixies at the BBC contains fifteen songs that represent a span of six sessions and three years, recorded between 1988 and 1991 for the John Peel show (with two tracks recorded for the Mark Goodier show). Only two of these are not included on previous albums: the opener, their furiously turbulent version of the Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie," all yelps and convulsive guitar, and the closing number, a quietly eerie "(In Heaven) Lady In the Radiator Song" (from the David Lynch film "Eraserhead").
The album's live-in-studio setting complements the Pixies' raw style. Instead of a documentary-style presentation of one or two sessions in their entirety, the album has been assembled track by track from various sessions, sacrificing the rawer edge and sloppier power of a one-off live performance in order to produce a polished gem: thirty-five well-paced (if all-too-brief) minutes of music that underscore the lasting influence of the Pixies.
So nothing here sounds substantially different than on previous recordings, maybe a little faster, a little rougher. Though some might be disappointed by the absence of surprise, Pixies at the BBC is an excellent showcase of the Pixies' sound, veering from the menacing to the melodic while maintaining a satisfying momentum. The lacerations of "Wild Honey Pie" yield to the soaring sound of "There Goes My Gun," convulsive shrieks and propulsive guitar alternate with the electroshocked deadpan they perfected, especially in "Subbacultcha." The barking, gothic-tinged nursery rhyme "Is She Weird" is followed by an unnervingly quiet "Ana," then by the hypnotic and threatening "Down to the Well." There are vibrant versions of some of the Pixies' classics: the surf-punkish "Wave of Mutilation," the opulent (and slightly sweetened) "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Hey," which foregrounds the snarling Black Francis over unnervingly calm background vocals by Kim Deal.
It was all that tension and combustible contrast that made the band so great. Pixies at the BBC is a tight, tense little package -- a treat for insatiable fans as well as a solid introduction to the band for the curious.