Articles: Pixies, by Joy Press

by Joy Press
OPTION #21, July/August 1988.
Transcribed by C. Gourraud for Alec Eiffel


We all know pixies. Odd sprites who pop up here and there, call up just when you're sure they've written you off, make your bones tingle one second and crumble the next. They talk breathlessly, stop, start again, laugh furiously at invisible jokes.

This, at least, is true for the pixies I know. As for the band from Boston, they may not look like the stuff hurricanes are made of, but the Pixies are mighty. Their first LP, SURFER ROSA (Rough Trade), follows on the heels of last year's COME ON PILGRIM EP on 4AD, and walks on millions of tiny pointed feet. Each song seems sensitive to the most minute vibrations, ripping apart in strange places, veering off at the sky with no warning. The Pixies don't dismiss the premise of rock, nor do they disembowel it. Their music celebrates the incongruities, the entropy, the spectacular collisions which comprise our culture. Song structures appear to be fairly traditional first, and yet are littered with strange pauses, words which stick out or are in Spanish, and singer Charles' high-pitched voice.

Charles, alias " Black Francis " (" a family name," he claims), is sitting by a fire escape catching at stray smoke. He lived in Puerto Rico for a time, which explains his affection for Spanglish, but he has a difficult time discussing lyrics, resorting to reenactment of the moment of creation - words gliding into a strange stream-of-consciousness which coheres into " Broken Face ": 'There was this boy who had two children with his sisters... who were his daughters... uh, what can I say... who were his favorite lovers! " The band members all chuckle as I ask : What about this incest motif, Charles?

" I dunno, Jim Morrison sang about it a lot, didn't he? " He looks around for backup. " I don't have any sisters or anything! I just had a lot of Bible upbringing. Real hardcore Pentacostal... you can't get rid of a lot of stuff. You have all the letters of the alphabet to choose from and all the words in the dictionnary, and you start putting things together and it begins to look like something - sort of - but there are lots of missing parts because you're starting off with arbitrary syllables... " So Pixies songs are populated by mutants and madonnas, apparitions with broken bodies, faces and minds, wandering arbitrarily through the swamps of Charles' mind? he lugs out his modesty at the last moment: " Aw, rhyme schemes help! "

Rather than deliberately thieving, distorting or mutilating, the Pixies seem to integrate disparate elements out of necessity, requiring the active participation of the listener. " You're constantly trying to draw attention to yourself - me, the singer - or to the structure of the song by stopping it and starting it again. because you have to make it interesting, to entertain, and I don't know how to do it, so it's the easiest way. Just start hacking away at things. Mixing it all up. "

SURFER ROSA is louder than their first EP (which was originally only meant to be a demo), with bigger, harder guitars due to the production of Big Black's Steve Albini. Albini's dislike for " anything human sounding " led him to allow the Pixies one night for vocals while spending two weeks on guitars. Bassist Kim (alias Mrs. Murphy) is ambivalent about Albini's technique (which included filtering Charles' voice through a guitar on " Something Against You " for a totally ragged, vicious texture). " We were going to call the album NON PUSSY, " she say, " because the only conversation we had was, " No, it's pussy "... Some people, when they turn up the guitars, they feel it's really rock, but I think the guitars are very soft - almost pussy, Steve - 'cause they're so loud all over. " The combination of Albini's abrasiveness and the Pixies' delicate precariousness makes the LP glow, from the ferocious " Bone Machine " to the epic lull of " River Euphrates, " or the grandly melodic wholeness of " Gigantic, " which features Kim's velvety vocals and may later be rereleased as a single.

So who the hell is Rosa and why is she topless on the cover of the record?

" Oh, she's a surfer, " Charles nods, humming the tune " Oh My Golly , " the song in which Rosa is named. She's a surfer girl, walks along the Beach of Binones, has a surfboard, very beautiful. "

And the topless bit?

" 'Cause she's pretty? Probably, but I didn't make the cover. For the first record, I told them I liked nudity. I like body lines - not necessarily something in bad taste, didn't even have to be female, just body lines... like that Obsession ad, you know? We could do a cover like Obsession, we'll all spend three months... "

" Working out? " Kim interrupts.

" No, no, no, I'll get fatter. You guys could all put on 30lbs. We'll be like sloths. "



Last Updated 11-18-96