Pixies

Catching Up On The Week (July 24 Edition)

Some #longreads for helping you pass the time while you luxuriate in humanity’s greatest sin, Central Air

It’s the dog days of summer, and so it’s probably about time we share some of the pieces we’ve bookmarked over the past few months but neglected to pass on to you.  One such example is this account from Vulture detailing Bob Dylan’s first Letterman appearance, and the unique group of musicians he enlisted for support.

Deadspin has another great piece that would have been better if we shared it at a more appropriate time: a look at the history behind Alice Cooper’s classic anthem “School’s Out”.

It is usually a blast to read the interactions between artists of different generations as they discuss their appreciation for the work of each other.  This interview with Frank Black/Black Francis of the Pixies and Tunde Adebimpe in Time Out is one such example.

We were fortunate to finally catch one of our favorite bands live a few months ago, and it turns out it was worth it to take on the additional expenses to do so, since The Replacements have seemingly broken up once again.  The Guardian has a profile of the band that ran shortly before a couple of the band’s final shows in London.

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Catching Up On The Week (Mar. 6 Edition)

In preparation for the beginning of daylight savings time, a shortened list of #longreads…

Not too many articles to catch up on this week, but this interview from The Talks with Black Francis of the Pixies was interesting, as he discusses the evolution of underground culture, his emotions and moods during the songwriting process, and his new painting hobby.

By now everyone is familiar with mp3s, but not all understand the process of compression that creates these sound files.  Vox provides an overview of the compression process and cites the more detailed work of Ryan MaGuire.

The AV Club provides an extensive look at Prince’s 1980 album Dirty Mind, a record that often gets lost in the shuffle when discussing his extensive discography.

And finally Pitchfork offers up the experience of first-time Sleater-Kinney concert-goers as well as a plea to listen to more music without consideration of its context, arguing that it is easier to enjoy songs without knowledge of all that excess baggage.

Over the Weekend (Feb. 2 Edition)

Videos, news, and other fun stuff as you recover from the worst playcall of all-time…

The coffee in Seattle probably tastes extra bitter today after yesterday’s Super Bowl loss, but the weekend wasn’t a total bummer for them since Friday night saw the “reunion” of supergroup Mad Season for a special event.  Blabbermouth has videos of the show which featured original members Mike McCready and Barrett Martin joining the Seattle Symphony to perform a trio of the group’s songs.  The evening also featured guest appearances from other Seattle grunge superstars like Chris Cornell, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Matt Cameron, as well as native Seattleite Duff McKagan.  As an added bonus, the stars also performed a couple of songs from the classic Temple of the Dog tribute album.

Back on the other coast, there was an epic Jack White concert that included a special appearance from Q-Tip, as well as openers Run The Jewels performing with Zach de la Rocha on the fantastic “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”.  Consequence of Sound has videos of both performances because in all likelihood, you weren’t there.  Elsewhere in the city at a fall smaller venue, Hamilton Leithauser was performing, and with guitarist Paul Maroon debuted a few new songs that may be released in the future.  Considering how much we loved his solo debut, our excitement level is pretty high.

That said, you still had the chance to watch some excellent live performances from your couch this weekend, but if you missed out, we got you covered.  D’Angelo made his Saturday Night Live debut with songs from his new album Black Messiah, and The Black Keys went through a quick set on Austin City Limits featuring mostly recent material.  Stereogum has the links to the appropriate videos.

We also have a couple of new music videos this week.  First, Deerhoof released the video for “Black Pitch” from La Isla Bonita, and it revolves around singer Satomi Matsuzak enjoying the coastal scenery despite the cold temperature outside.

Then we have Run The Jewels’s second appearance in today’s linkfest, since they just put out a video for “Lie, Cheat, Steal”.

If you’re in the mood for lists which prominently feature the Pixies, we have a couple for you.  First, there’s PASTE ranking the 80 Best Albums of the 80’s, and then there’s Consequence of Sound looking at the Top 10 4AD albums for that record label’s thirty-fifth anniversary.

Have some fun thinking about the fact that Rick Rubin is now doing annotations for Genius, and then hurrying over to see what the guru has to say about the great songs that he worked on (and his thoughts on songs he did not).

Finally, spend the day listening to albums from the one holiday-appropriate band that there is for February 2.  We’ll help get you started.

Over the Weekend (Jan. 5 Edition)

Prepare yourself for a return to a normal work-week with new videos and other fun distractions…

Broken Social Scene just released a music video for the track “Golden Facelift”, which originally was recorded during the Forgiveness Rock Record sessions but received new life when it was included in a recent compilation.  Pitchfork has the story behind the song if you’re interested; otherwise, just sit back and enjoy this fan-made montage of all the horrifying events from this past year, with a slick BSS soundtrack.

The year 2014 was a bummer for a lot of people, but not for those who benefit from the rebirth of vinyl, as the recent boom shows no signs of slowing down with this latest year of sales.  While the pretty bar graph shows a significant increase in the volume of sales, it doesn’t provide the needed caveat that vinyl still represents only a small percentage of total music sales, because that would require more research and more complicated analysis.

You thought that just because we’re now in the new year that we were beyond the time for lists?  Well, think again, because Slicing Up Eyeballs has a list of the 100 best albums of the 80’s as determined by its readers.  I have to say, I was rather surprised that a website with that name would only list Doolittle as number three, but apparently that’s how democracy works.

Consequence of Sound has an excellent extended interview with Death From Above 1979’s Jesse F. Keeler, with topics ranging from a potential sale of host Sami Jarroush’s guitar to Keeler’s “Mosh Mondays” with his kids.

New York Magazine has an extended profile of the founders of Rap Genius, the lyrics annotation website, with an eye on their grand plans for the future.  Spoiler Alert: the guys are exactly the kind of dudebro assholes you would expect.

Here’s the perfect diversion for any Monday: a Tumblr that mashes up Morrissey/The Smiths lyrics with old Peanuts strips.

And finally, the Tumblr “Fuck Yeah Spoon” shared a brand new Spoon song that made its debut at a show in Houston a few nights ago.  Even though the fan-made recording is not album-quality, it’s clear that “Satellite” is a beautiful ballad with a nice chugging beat, and we will certainly be hoping for an official release of some sort in the future.

Catching Up On The Week (Dec. 12 Edition)

Some #longreads as you try to stop laughing every time you hear “Pineapple Express” on the local weather report…

Earlier this month, the Pixies released a three-disc reissue of their classic album Doolittle for its 25th anniversary, and I truly mean “classic” in every sense of the word.  The AV Club has a roundtable devoted to the album, and the band’s label at the time 4AD has created an interactive version of the liner notes online.  Be sure to check those out as you blast that album the rest of the weekend.

For those more interested in current music, Consequence of Sound has named their Band of the Year and Artist of the Year, and they are Rust Is Just Right favorites The War On Drugs and Run The Jewels, respectively.  As such, they each get the extended profile and retrospective treatment.

Because it’s always fun to read his interviews, we’re going to link to a Rolling Stone piece with Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers answering questions from Twitter.  You’ll find stories about their infamous socks costume, potential future drum battles with Will Ferrell, and updates on their new album.

In more serious news, this week saw the release from the Senate Intelligence Committee on the use of torture by the CIA in the last decade.  Among the various methods employed was the use of music, in different forms, and Vox has a breakdown of the psychological connections that humans with music and how the CIA exploited them.

Catching Up On The Week (Oct. 31 Edition)

Some #longreads as you deal with the candy hangover this weekend…

The recent release of The Best Day is allowing Thurston Moore to talk to a range of news outlets over the past couple of weeks.  This week, there are interviews with SPIN and Esquire to check out.

Pitchfork has an in-depth cover story on Run The Jewels, and considering they just released one of the best albums of the year, you should probably give it a look.  And just in time for the holiday, elsewhere on the site they have Jason Heller talking to Peter Berbegal about the connection between the “occult” and rock and roll.

David Lovering, the drummer for the Pixies, talks to Diffuser about touring for the new album, and also touches upon his work as a magician.

Wayne Coyne has been making the rounds discussing With A Little Help From My Fwends, the tribute album to Sgt. Pepper’s that The Flaming Lips and various colleagues put together, including this interview with Newsweek where he discusses favorite and least-favorite Beatles tracks.

If you read any takedown on how brotastic bastardizations are ruining country music, it should be this review of a recent Jason Aldean/Florida-Georgia Line concert.

FADER talks to female music producers about the lack of gender diversity among producers, and asks them what can be done to fix the issue.

And finally, The Black Keys are arriving in town tonight, so we’ll link to an interview that Patrick Carney did with The Oregonian.  We’re looking forward to a great show, and we’ll be back with a review next week.

Catching Up On The Week (Sept. 26 Edition)

A few #longreads for your weekend as hipsterdom reaches its apex with a Pabst-sponsored music festival in Portland, Oregon…

One of the bands appearing at the Project Pabst festival this weekend is hometown heavy metal act Red Fang.  They may be local, but they also have a worldwide reach, as evidenced by a recent interview that an Indian metal publication conducted with guitarist Bryan Giles.

Portland's most identifiable landmark is a sign with its name.

Portland’s most identifiable landmark is a sign with its name.

Pitchfork has an extensive interview with Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs, discussing the creation of his group’s brilliant new album Lost in the Dream and all the personal struggles he endured.  Be sure to check out also this performance that the band did for The Current, featuring a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” (which is a perfect fit for the band).

Jeff Tweedy talks with The Quietus on the making of Sukierae with his son Spencer, discussing musical experimentation and lyrical processes among other topics.  And because I missed it when it first was published, I’m linking to another recent interview from The Quietus, this time with Karen O.

Joey Santiago talks about the legacy of the Pixies with Diffuser, and it’s always worth hearing from the legendary guitarist.

And because it’s not enough that people discuss the twentieth anniversary of Dookie, Consequence of Sound has a roundtable examining the impact of American Idiot ten years later.  I’m just glad someone stood up for Warning, which I feel is an underrated Green Day album.

And finally, some new music: after a week of dropping various hints, Thom Yorke announced the release of his second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, which is now available for purchase on BitTorrent.  It’ll definitely be making my weekend playlist.

Catching Up On The Week (May 23 Edition)

We hope everyone has an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and if you find yourself with some time on your hands, here are a few handy #longreads.

We’ve had previous coverage on the Will Ferrell/Chad Smith drum-off before, and last night the two finally battled it out to see who is the superior look-alike.  Rolling Stone has a write-up and video of their joint appearance on The Tonight Show, and yes cowbell is involved.  For those who want to minimize their exposure to Jimmy Fallon, here’s the footage of the face-off.

Jack White is doing the rounds in preparation for the release of his newest solo effort, and a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone is getting some attention.  Since I got the news secondhand, I’m linking to the SPIN article discussing some of the highlights, such as his relationship these days with Meg White and the fact that he doesn’t use a cell phone.

SPIN got their own scoop when they interviewed The Antlers for their upcoming album, and the band discusses their different approach for Familiars.

The Quietus talked to Joey Santiago of the Pixies and he discussed his 13 favorite albums with the magazine.

And so that you’re all caught up when you’re back at work next week, here’s the article discussing Tupac’s last words before he died.

The Pixies Dilemma

Back in 2004, the descendants of Alternative Nation celebrated the return of the Pixies, perhaps the greatest band to come out of the underground music scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  For many of those fans, this was especially welcome because they had grown up well past the band’s heyday, and had figured they would never get the chance to see such a legendary band live, this author included.  I’m not using the term “legendary” lightly either–savvy music fans were well aware of the debt that their favorite bands of the 90’s had to the Pixies and realized the scope of their influence on alternative music from that era.  We discovered their genius when we heard bands like Weezer cover their songs and saw Kurt Cobain name-drop them in numerous interviews, after which we headed to the record store as if we were completing a homework assignment to study up on what helped create our favorite music.

My personal introduction to the band was hearing “Where Is My Mind?” play over the ending of Fight Club, an experience I imagine many others shared.    It was a perfect companion to a film that had just blown my mind, a moment that is unsullied years later even after thousands of people have misinterpreted the movie and turned into some sort of cinematic Bro Bible.  Though the official soundtrack didn’t include the song, it still stuck with me for a long time.

My next experience was when a friend brought along a copy of the Greatest Hits compilation Death to the Pixies for one of our road-trips up I-5.  I was immediately impressed by their cover of “Cecilia Ann”, and was hoping to hear more of this cool surf-rock.  However, the compilation is not set up in a manner really suited to the Pixies novice, though to be fair it does a good job of representing the different eras of their career.  The easier-to-swallow pop songs were mixed haphazardly throughout, and as a result the harder-edged rockers predominated in my mind (it didn’t help that driving on the interstate would cause road noise to swallow up most of the nuances either).  Still, besides the aforementioned “Cecilia Ann”, I remember loving every second of “Debaser” as soon as I heard it.

The song had everything I would come to love about the Pixies: the catchy and smooth leads of Joey Santiago, the whacked-out lyrics and delirious intensity of Black Francis, the (metaphorically) steady hand of Kim Deal to provide the counterpoint, and those driving and energetic drums from Dave Lovering.  The melodies were instantly memorable, and the song said everything that needed to be said in less than three minutes.  Hell, even the lyrics about watching weird movies about slicin’ up eyeballs were appealing to a guy branching out into the more obscure subfields of cinema, and also just being of a juvenile mindset of HEY LOOK AT THIS TERRIBLE THING.

But while the love of “Debaser” was instantaneous, and appreciation for other songs quickly followed (“Velouria”, “La La Love You”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, and especially “Here Comes Your Man” (which is so catchy that it boggles my mind as to how it never became a crossover smash)), it would still be time before I would have total adoration for the entire Pixies catalog.  It would take a few listens to appreciate the raucous nature of “Tame” or “Something Against You”, and realize that the genius of the band was how they were both the pop craftsmen of “Wave of Mutilation” and the harsh punks of “Crackity Jones”.  If this were a more pretentious piece, now would be the time to drop some reference to Jungian archetypes or something along those lines, but I’ll just trust you the reader to fill those in as you see fit.

Over the years, my love and respect for the band deepened.  I consider Doolittle to be the greatest album of the 80’s, with Surfer Rosa only a few notches behind, and Bossanova remains a personal favorite (my early love of “Cecilia Ann” and “Velouria” paving the way for years of endless repeated listens probably helped elevate my opinion of that particular album as compared to most of my peers, but fuck them, because it’s a great album top-to-bottom).  Seeing Doolittle performed in its entirety live was one of the highlights of my concert-going experience, one that I am unlikely to forget.

However, after years of touring on the backs of (their admittedly great) previous work, many fans yearned to hear something new from the band.  Sure, it was great to see our old favorites performed live, but we needed more variety, especially considering how closely the songs align with their album versions.  And thus, we have the dilemma–what happens when our expectations of a band have outstripped their abilities?  In other words, fans were soon faced with the lesson that countless others have faced over thousands of years of human history: be careful what you wish for.

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Perhaps we were a bit spoiled, considering how Dinosaur Jr. was able to reunite its classic lineup and toss off three fantastic albums that measure up to their early work, and how My Bloody Valentine just last year made the 20+ year wait for a follow-up to Loveless nearly worth it.  Touring behind the same old songs made the Pixies suffer in comparison, and we were eager for something new to replace the diminishing returns of seeing the same material once again.  In response, the Pixies released their first new album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde, with Indie Cindy hitting the shelves two weeks ago.  But where was the celebration this time?

The muted reaction was an understandable response to the drawn-out release of the record, as we heard bits and pieces over the previous months as the songs were released in various EPs.  Some of the initial reactions from fans (and critics) were quite vicious, and the result was that the eventual compilation of the three EPs came and went with little fanfare.  The reviews haven’t been kind, with some publications ignoring it altogether.  All that considered, I’d say that a lot of this intense reaction is misplaced.

Let’s make this clear: Indie Cindy is a decent, but definitely not great album.  There are certainly several issues with this record, many of which bother long-time Pixies fans.  The production is too loud, and the band attempts to do too much all the time instead of letting each element breathe on its own.  Consider how some of the greatest moments from Pixies songs are when an instrument are given a few seconds of spotlight, from the bass in “Gigantic” or “Tame”, to the drum intro of “La La Love You”, to the simple acoustic strums of “Where Is My Mind?” or the broken arpeggios of “Hey”.  Even when everybody comes together, these moments stand out in contrast to the rest of the song.  The lack of a bass presence throughout the album also hurts, as the band didn’t care to flesh out those parts (Joey in a recent interview when discussing Kim’s departure said, “She would have had input, sure, but at the end of the day, a bass part is kind of like a bass part, y’know?”).  While Kim didn’t play the most complicated parts in the world, they did provide an effective counter to the other guitar parts and melodies.  The biggest problem may be Joey’s leads–before, he was a almost surgical in providing concise and memorable melodies, like the descending line in “Velouria” or the bouncy melody in “Here Comes Your Man”.  On Indie Cindy, few guitar lines stick out, and more often than not play out as just an additional layer of sludge on top of ordinary material.  The worst part may be that all these songs are too long–for a guy who once cited Buddy Holly as an inspiration, saying that if two-minute songs were good enough for him, they should be good enough for anybody, it’s disheartening to see an album with songs around three and four minutes each.

All those problems aside, Indie Cindy still is on the whole a worthwhile record and not at all the black eye that its most hardened critics proclaim.  “Greens and Blues”, embedded above, would fit in perfectly with one of the bands more melodic ballads, and features the most memorable melody and guitar lead on the album.  “Blue Eyed Hexe” is a pretty good rip-off of their own “U-Mass”, and is part of a back half of an album that in general bears a closer resemblance to the golden era of the band.  The album overall holds up better with repeated listens, and there isn’t a single song that I would outright skip (though the album doesn’t do itself any favors by opening up with the weak “What Goes Boom”).  In my mind, the album rates about the same as Trompe le Monde, a record that I rarely consider whenever I feel in the mood for some Pixies, and usually only listen to as a reminder that, hey, I should probably do a better job of trying to like this album.  In that regard, Indie Cindy doesn’t stand out as some outlier among a continued line of brilliance, but more of a typical example of a band’s evolution.

It’s interesting that the band has inspired in some such a hysterical reaction; while the Pixies are one of my all-time favorite bands who put out some classic albums, in the end they’re a group that treads in catchy melodies and some fun rockers.  I can see how people create a certain bond with artists, depending on their deeply-seated philosophical beliefs or their fiercely personal lyrics, but these aren’t characteristics that one uses to describe the Pixies.  It’s not as if Elliott Smith or Neutral Milk Hotel decided to change course and start writing jingles for soft drink companies.  Even the band has no idea what their lyrics are about.

I think the real reason why the reaction to Indie Cindy was so intense was not only the intense devotion that many of these reviewers had to a band from their youth, but as a protection against the possibility that the next generation would never understand the Pixies’ brilliance if this album was their first exposure to the band.  While I see some merits to that outlook, in practice it doesn’t mean much.  As I pointed out before, I came to the band from the backdoor, though it was through one of their greatest songs.  But people all the time discover their favorite artists through unconventional means, and yes, sometimes their worst work is the gateway.  The first album I ever bought by The Jam was their mediocre swan song The Gift, because it was cheap and I knew I had to learn about the band.  Years later, I listen to The Jam regularly and The Gift rarely comes up in the rotation of superior albums like All Mod ConsSetting Sons, or Sound Affects.  What’s funny is that many people are now getting their first taste of the Pixies not through Indie Cindy, but through an awful iPhone commercial featuring a terrible cover of their classic “Gigantic”.  Ironically, it would have been far better for everyone if they used a mediocre Pixies album as their entrance point instead.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 28 Edition)

Ho hum, another Monday, another day of new music and videos.  Wait a second, that sounds great!  On to the links.

Moby re-worked a song from director David Lynch (deeming it a “re-version”) and released it on Record Store Day last week; today he uploaded the video on YouTube, and it’s a delightfully spooky black-and-white film that fits the ethereal, hazy music perfectly.

One of our favorite metal acts, Red Fang, is about to head out on tour once again, because they don’t believe in resting on their laurels.  As a bonus for showing up to their show, they’re giving out a free 7″ record which features a new single, “The Meadow”.  You can take a listen right here, courtesy of Noisey.

The first new Pixies album in over two decades will officially be released tomorrow, and the band has uploaded a track-by-track overview on YouTube.  Also be sure to check out the bonus track, “Women of War”, as well.

And Pitchfork has the video of a one-of-a-kind performance, with members of Beach House, Grizzly Bear, The Walkmen, and Fleet Foxes performing a tribute to Gene Clark of the Byrds with a recreation of his solo album No Other.  Check out the whole show here.