Long Live The Pixies!

The nostalgia first hit me when I went to see Grosse Pointe

Blank. The

film's soundtrack of popular music from the 1980s gave me a little

high school

high that lasted at least a couple of weeks. In fact, when I got home

from

the movies I broke out albums (yes, I mean albums, not CDs) that I

hadn't

listened to in years -- X, Madness, Bow Wow Wow, yadda yadda

yadda. Not long

after that I had a baby, which made me feel old, bringing on

another wave of

nostalgia. I spent a lot of time this summer in front of MTV while I

fed the

baby and thought about the old days when I'd sit in front of MTV

because I

didn't really have anything else to focus on. As in those days,

showering

had once again become a low priority on my things-to-do list.

Now the Cure, the Pixies, the Psychedelic Furs, even Joan Jett

have

released or are releasing greatest hits CDs. I'm glad to see some

of these

bands back in the front of the music stores. But will only those who

can

remember that these bands were alternative back when there was

an alternative

shell out the fifteen bucks? Are these simply our Big Chill

soundtracks? Are my friends and I destined to dance around and

set the table to our favorite

tunes from college?

I've been listening to Death to the Pixies, a two-CD

retrospective consisting of one

live recording from 1990 and one greatest hits CD. Once again,

the nostalgia

has hit. Listening to "Monkey Gone to Heaven" is like drinking

wine and

looking at old photos. It makes me want to dial long distance to talk

about

the time the Pixies opened for Throwing Muses. Or the summer I

listened to

Doolittle as I packed up my Virginia apartment to move to

New York.

The Pixies aren't really mentioned much anymore. But anyone

who's ever seen them will tell you that they put on a powerful

show. They were a talented band. Songwriter and lead singer

Black Francis is still selling records, but he's altered his name a

little so that now he's Frank Black. And bass player and vocalist

Kim

Deal formed the Breeders. The other two, guitarist Joey Santiago

and drummer

David Lovering, put together a band called the Martinis.

Together as the Pixies, these four musicians made music that

influenced many

younger songwriters. In the liner notes for Death to the

Pixies, Gary Smith

writes "I've heard it said about the Velvet Underground that while

not a lot

of people bought their albums, everyone who did started a band. I

think this

is largely true about the Pixies as well."

Francis' songwriting style, alternating between quiet tension in the

verse

and thundering rage in the chorus, begat "Smells Like Teen

Spirit," which in turn

begat half of what's on MTV today. The Pixies deserve credit for

combining surf-style guitar and punk fury without creating results

that sound like the theme music for some beer-soaked frat party.

Death to the Pixies opens with a cover of "Cecilia Ann" by

the Surftones. It sets

the stage for other Pixies songs, like "Wave of Mutilation" and

"Debaser,"

which hark back to '60s surf rock, without leaving behind the snarl

of punk

rock.

Francis had a definite pop sensibility, but something (his

aggression or his

cynicism) kept the Pixies from actually becoming a pop band.

Were it written

today, when the charts are dominated by alternative rock, "Here

Comes Your

Man" would probably be a big hit. It's so catchy I can sing it to my

four-month old son -- but I change the lyrics to "here comes your

mom."

Deal's songwriting ability was apparent even then. "Gigantic" is

the only

song on Death to the Pixies co-written by Deal. It was first

recorded in

1988 on the Surfer Rosa CD. About five years later, "Cannonball"

was born and

Kim Deal became important enough to get other girls to wear

knee-high tube

socks -- a look that makes me feel a little nostalgic.