The Pixies - Death To The Pixies

LET'S GET THE LINEAGE OF Inspirational Pop straight once and for all. There was The Beatles. There was the Sex Pistols. And there was the Pixies. The Beatles made pop fly. The Sex Pistols made it spit. And the Pixies chewed it into a pulp and vomited it out.

It was in mid-'89 that the Pixies turned rock music around to the Dark Side. When Black Francis appeared in flickering black and white astride the top of The Chart Show's indie chart and croaked, "If man is five/THEN THE DEVIL IS SIX!!" just before Grandstand. We had no idea what he was on about but we did know that we wanted our mummies; for here was a band that took beautiful pop tunes and slit them open to feed on the innards. This truly was the soundtrack to the Apocalypse and in Pixieworld it was raining severed eyeballs.

And lurking behind the twisted opulence of 'Monkey Gone To Heaven' there was a whole underworld of tortured magnificence - a place where pop was forced to crawl on its belly through the slime of humanity's perversions and still come out grinning. There was a song called 'Tame' that was anything but, as a frothing-at-the-mouth Black Francis screamed and gargled like a psychopath at a teddy bear's picnic. There were buoyant surf tunes called 'Wave Of Mutilation' and 'Nimrod's Son' - a chirpy little ditty about mythological incest. And there were sleeve photos that made Damien Hirst seem like Sooty: shrivelled transplant organs, freakish Monkey Men and aliens formed from distorted eyes. Hell, between 1987 and 1991 - when the Pixies hatched, slithered and eventually ate themselves - it was inadvisable to go anywhere near a record shop without a safety blanket and plastic trousers.

Yet while they were systematically terrifying our children with their aural Halloweens they were also slyly inventing the future of rock. With the likes of the scary 'Gouge Away', the spikily eclectic 'Bone Machine' and the ubiquitous 'Debaser', Pixies patented the quiet bass bit/LOUD SCREAMY BIT formula that without which most of your favourite bands (Ash, Blur, Nirvana, Supergrass, etc) would be doing Don McLean covers.

History, of course, inevitably makes itself bite-sized and sugar-coated. Hence the grand folly of trying to condense the music of a band who wrote a total of two and a half shit songs over five albums into one 17-track opus (and bonus live album). The result is undoubtedly the best and simultaneously the most frustrating album to be released this year. Sure, there's a spectacular balance struck between the cider-soaked pop singles which seep from the floorboards of every freshers' disco in Christendom to this day ('Here Comes Your Man', 'Gigantic', 'Velouria', 'De-Bloody-Baser') and the inspired, more off-the-wall choices (the brutal delicacy of 'Where Is My Mind?', 'Holiday Song''s impression of Satan surfing).

However, as the Pixies' entire career exemplified, it's what's not said that really sticks in the craw. And 'Death To The Pixies' all but ignores the artful violence of the final album 'Trompe Le Monde' as well as all the spooky alien songs (bar 'Planet Of Sound') that gave Frank Black (as he is now) his lonely-farmer-who-can't-explain-it-but-knows-what-he-saw humour. And made everyone laugh at his solo albums.

But a pox on this nit-picking when every single note on 'Death...' is perfect. If you only buy two albums this year, buy this one. Twice.


James Oldham