Just how good were Pixies in their prime? When four fresh faced kids from Boston took to the stage for the first time circa 1986, they could never have envisaged the impact and influence they would have on rock music for decades to come. Cited and celebrated by everyone from David Bowie to Kurt Cobain, they went on to record five albums over a six year period, before splitting acrimoniously in 2002. They took the core elements of rock and shaped them into something thrilling, offbeat and unique. Pixies are very possibly the weirdest rock band to ever enjoy mainstream success – songs routinely dealt with subjects like incest, death, violence and eh, flying saucers, delivered in their patented 'quiet loud quiet' formula that became the blueprint for so many bands that came along in their wake. Now, after a succession of EPs, they have just released their first new album since 1991. 'Indie Cindy' is a triumphant return, delivering more than we could have expected after such a lengthy lay off.
Here we take a look at ten essential tracks from a band that were once described by Bono as "one of America's greatest bands ever".
First album Come on Pilgrim may have been the record that introduced the music world to the gleefully, malevolent charms of Pixies but it was the Steve Albini produced Surfer Rosa that made us all sit up and take notice. Kim Deal took lead vocals on this slyly sexual slice of indie rock. When it was quiet it was very quiet – when it was loud, it was monstrously so.
You haven't lived until you have stood in a packed venue singing this at the top of your voice with a couple of thousand people: 'Got me a movie, ha ha ha ho/slicing up eyeballs, ha ha ha ho/girl you're so groovy, ha ha ha ho/don't know about you/ but I am un CHIEN ANDALUSIA!' And that intro chord sequence? Kurt Cobain borrowed it, changed the key and turned it into 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'; the rest is history.
3. Wave of Mutilation
Pixies never tried to hide their love of sixties surf pop/rock – of course their version of surf pop came with a side helping of the bizarre. This was Pixies at their most gloriously, thrillingly melodic.
4. Monkey gone to Heaven
A breakthrough hit of sorts, Monkey Gone to Heaven was a surreal pop masterpiece. Cryptic lyrics and the kind of sing along chorus that made this as close to anthem rock as Pixies ever got.
An instant live favourite, this was a song that seemed to connect with audiences despite the cryptically sparse lyrics and slow pace. The plaintive cries of 'we're chained' and Santiago's weeping guitar response might just have something to do with it.
6. Gouge Away
More violence and mayhem. The ominous rumble of the verse gives way to the guitar explosion in the chorus. And THAT scream. Nobody in the history of rock sounded as bloodcurdlingly unhinged as Black Francis when he cut loose. Bloody terrifying.
7. Bone Machine
Guitars that splinter and shatter, a bassline that prowls, as if looking for its next victim. The whole thing sounded wonderfully deranged. Steve Albini didn't so much produce Surfer Rosa as let it ooze from the speakers, raw and visceral.
8. Where is my Mind?
Looking for answers to this question in Pixies lyrics is pointless. A futile exercise. Because they were as confused and fucked up as the rest of us. And maybe that goes some way to explaining their appeal. A thing of strange and swirling beauty.
9. Blue Eyed Hexe
Taken from the new album Indie Cindy, Blue Eyed Hexe demonstrates that Pixies still know a thing or two about this rock game. A perfect amalgam of classic Pixies and AC/DC riffing.
The band's first Top 40 Hit in the UK and a moment of guitar pop perfection from the album Bossanova. The story goes that an offer to appear on Top of the Pops was withheld because of an arcane BBC rule that only singles that had videos could be performed on the show. The band hastily shot 23 seconds of footage of them running through a quarry. They slowed it down so that it lasted the 3:42 running time of the track. The 'video' was duly submitted but the Top of the Pops appearance never happened. Welcome to the wonderfully messed up world of Pixies.
Words by Paul Page