The nostalgia first hit me when I went to see Grosse Pointe
film's soundtrack of popular music from the 1980s gave me a little
high that lasted at least a couple of weeks. In fact, when I got home
the movies I broke out albums (yes, I mean albums, not CDs) that I
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
baby and thought about the old days when I'd sit in front of MTV
didn't really have anything else to focus on. As in those days,
had once again become a low priority on my things-to-do list.
Now the Cure, the Pixies, the Psychedelic Furs, even Joan Jett
released or are releasing greatest hits CDs. I'm glad to see some
bands back in the front of the music stores. But will only those who
remember that these bands were alternative back when there was
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,
has hit. Listening to "Monkey Gone to Heaven" is like drinking
looking at old photos. It makes me want to dial long distance to talk
the time the Pixies opened for Throwing Muses. Or the summer I
Doolittle as I packed up my Virginia apartment to move to
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
Deal formed the Breeders. The other two, guitarist Joey Santiago
David Lovering, put together a band called the Martinis.
Together as the Pixies, these four musicians made music that
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
is largely true about the Pixies as well."
Francis' songwriting style, alternating between quiet tension in the
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
which hark back to '60s surf rock, without leaving behind the snarl
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
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
Deal's songwriting ability was apparent even then. "Gigantic" is
song on Death to the Pixies co-written by Deal. It was first
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
socks -- a look that makes me feel a little nostalgic.