Come On Pilgrim|
Trompe Le Monde|
The Pixies are set to release their new album, " Trompe Le Monde ", on September 23. It was recorded at
Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles with producer Gil Norton and has become the most eagerly awaited Pixies LP
yet, largely due to the rumours that have surrounded its reported heavy metal content. While the rumours have
turned out to be largely innacurate, the album has been described by those who've heard it as the band's answer
to critics who thought they'd gone soft on the " Doolittle " and " Bossanova " albums. " I'd say it's more heavy
rock than heavy metal, " Black Francis told the Maker in May. " There's no long guitar solos or those kind of
cliches, but there are some Led Zeppelinish things here and there. The new stuff is pretty damn heavy, that's for
sure. We watch MTV and see those bands like Nelson and Warrant and think surely it's possible to do a better
job with that kind of music. "
Originally, the Pixies recorded enough material for two albums and planned to release the rockier " Trompe Le
Monde " followed by a softer, possibly acoustic, album a few months later. The Maker understands that this idea
has now been shelved in favour of the one album.
The LP's title comes from a play on the French phrase trompe l'oeil - a painting technique designed to make the
viewer think objects represented are real.
It features a cover of the Mary Chain's " Head On ". The Pixies heard the track while they were recording
" Bossanova ". Their version features substantially re-written lyrics. Former Captain Beefheart keyboardist Eric
Feldman guests on some tracks and has helped the Pixies arrange a 10-minute instrumental piece that will appear
on a forthcoming LP. Meanwhile, here's the Maker's exclusive " Trompe Le Monde " preview:
TROMPE LE MONDE:
The song may have the blitzkrieg guitar rampage reminiscent of " Rock Music " from " Bossanova ", but
Charles' innocent, almost sweet nursery rhyme melodies about spacecraft instantly remove it from standard
Black Flag-style hardcore. In fact, the entire album is not the much-heralded heavy metal album. Although
harder and harsher than anything since " Surfer Rosa ", almost all the songs on " Trompe... " place an equal
emphasis on melody. All the abrupt jolts, twists and false starts that have become the Pixies' familiar signature
are this time used to seamlessly blend Charles' megaphone rants about outer space with the main body of the
PLANET OF SOUND:
The single, full of pleasant little lines like " This ain't no f***ing around, it's just a planet of sound " was the
first indication that the Pixies had left behind the mellower strains of " Bossanova " and were out to take no
prisoners. A remarkably undisposable piece of trash metal culture.
Loosely (perhaps tenuously) based on the life of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who not only built the famous
monolith in Paris, but was also a whizz with aerodynamics - which is why it matches the central sci-fi theme of
the album. " Bossanova " was seen by some as the Pixies' surf/sci-fi album just because it had a planet on the cover and two tracks that dealt with the outer limits. This time, space is the fulcrum for over half the tracks.
According to Charles, the song started with Eiffel, then he started singing the words Eiffel, rifle, trifle and suddenly " everything fell into place ". It's not certain whether these lines like " Little Eiffel stands in the archway, even though it doesn't make no sense " are an observation on the lunacy of the architecture ot the song itself, which features a Sixties' -style zither!
The full-tilt roar of Charles' holler collides with a metal trash that sounds like Slayer, until the song suddenly lurches into a genteel, liting ballad that echoes " Caribou ". According to Charles, " Sad Punk " is a about " a kid walking along and thinking about dinosaur bones beneath his feet ", which explains the one-word screamed chorus of " Extinction ".
Suffice to say their version of Reid brothers' surf anthem makes the Mary Chain's original version sound as menacing as Chesney Hawkes. When Jim and William heard the version live at the Pixies' recent dates at Brixton Academy, both gave it their blessing with the inimitable phrase, " F*** it, this is how it should sound. "
Continues the Pixies relentless barrage, with Charles' scream taking center stage. A bludgeoning, ferocious Zeppelin-style attack that reflects what might be a swipe n the school system, where communism and capitalism and " stupid stuff " are points of instruction, but life isn't. He even namechecks the University of Massachussetts, which he and Joey Santiago attended before they both dropped out to form the Pixies. He sneers the verse, " Oh kiss the world, oh kiss the sky, oh kiss my ass, oh let it rock " before screaming the chorus of " it's Educational ".
PALACE OF THE BRINE:
Charles' voice is vaguely reminiscent of Iggy Pop. This is the first time Kim Deal is actually heard singing backing vocals. From the minor discord of " Palace " (perhaps about the lost underwater city of Atlantis), the song seamlessly moves into the more tender " Letter To Memphis " - probably the closest Charles has ever come to writing a love song.
BIRD DREAM OF THE OLYMPUS MONS:
Charles' low-slung baritone croon drapes around a prowling bass that echoes " The Happening " from " Bossanova ". He sings about dreaming of waking up to " Sunshine in the rusty morning ", which hints at a Mars-scape. The Mons Olympus is a mountain range on Mars, with summits over three times the size of the Everest.
SPACE (I BELIEVE IN):
Staccato power chords echo Metallica's short, sharp, shock (Santiago described the album as a pelt into guitar hell). The guitars die away, leaving Charles to recount a tale about Jeffrey, who sat on a carpet and with pallet in hand, took up the chase. What's he chasing is anyone's guess.
The twanging surf riffs sound like a cross between a deranged Link Wray and The Ventures. The song also sounds like a cross between " Cactus " from " Surfer Rosa " and " Cecilia Ann " from " Bossanova ". It's a distorted boy meets girl paean, with Charles looking handsome, the girl looking erotic and both dressed in black by the light of the moon. " You know where you are when you're groping for luna, " Charles concludes in a voice that sounds like a garbled railway station announcement.
DISTANCE EQUALS RATE TIMES TIMES:
Clocking in at under two minutes, its mixture of speed and harmony recalls the likes of " Nimrod's Son " off their first album " Come On Pilgrim ".
The acoustic guitars and Charles' talking blues vocales are once again reminiscent of the " Come On Pilgrim " LP.
MOTORWAY TO ROSWELL:
A song that combines Charles' two favorites themes - surreal travel and science fiction. It has the same jaunty feel of " Wave Of Mutilation ", even though the entire album is conspicuously empty of all references to mangling, laceration, wounding or the bloody themes of the first three albums. Roswell was the place where an alien spacecraft was supposed to have crash landed in 1947. UFO experts swear that the US government actually found the bodies of dead aliens and have suppressed photographic evidence.
THE NAVAJO KNOW:
The introduction of beautiful, ringing piano arpeggios is in a sharp contrast to the relentless guitar maelstrom that infects most of the album. This time, all manner of kitsch effects are thrown into the cauldron, together with Red Skins and more surf guitaring, but the tunes survives intact.
It's not bad, but that can wait.
Firstly, "Trompe Le Monde" is not a metal album. That rumour, we assume, was put about to
Pixies' hugely covetous fanbase and stoked by the release of the single "Planet Of Sound"
when you honestly think about it, like a cautious Cult. The rumour did, however, have the
making "Trompe Le Monde" the most eagerly awaited Pixies album yet.
Frankly, we never believed it would be a metal album. Metal is way too un-ironic for someone
as Black Francis. The sleeve confirmed this for us. It's another half-clever Pixies sleeve
that gives away
everything by giving away nothing. It's deliberately, obtusely, weird, six sheep's eyeballs
lying in a soft
bed of salt. The sleeve says, in effect, "This will be an odd, unpredictable, sometimes
strangely beautiful experience. An album to be reckoned with."
Often, indeed, it is all these things. And just as often, like any other Pixies album, it's
tame, lame and, though
never quite lazy, awfully workmanlike. And, of course, at points, it's irredeemably daft.
Black Francis, as his
chosen moniker suggests, has somewhere in his genes a wacky chromosome. One X, one Y, one
Sometimes his irresistible need to introduce aural and lyrical whoppee cushions into what
otherwise be perfectly respectable songs pays off. "Alex Eiffel" (sic), the album's best
pure pop song, owes
a good deal of its brilliance to the Barbarella backing-vocal and Francis' endemically
facetious lyrics. He
rhymes "phallic" with "panoramic". At time, though, the results can be disastrous. "Space (I believe in)"
for instance, billed as another epic Pixies sci-fi masterpiece, is in fact simply infuriating. What you have is
Santiago's brilliantly heavy and discordant guitar-work building to a terrace chorus (a la Black Flag) of
"Jefrey with ONE f! Jefrey with ONE f!" Now, there can be no doubt that 10,000 people simultaneously
pumping their fist and chanting that particular line is funny. Once. Maybe even twice. But Black's gonna
be touring Europe and America with that one. Humour, more than anything else, is bound by the laws of
diminishing returns. Unless of course you're wacky, in which case a joke is a joke ad infinitum. So, where
"Space" could have been a monster of a rock track, it becomes an indie Parrot Sketch.
Black's never been much good with sci-fi, his interests not stretching far beyond "Space Oddity" and
tacky comics. Where he excels is sex. "Subbacultcha", the album's finest moment, is Black sex. Vaguely
reminiscent of Fall rockabilly, the guitars are as visceral, dirty and libidinous as the song's subject matter, a
tale we think of a zipless f***ing in a nightclub - though what's left unsaid is as vital as what is said. "She's
like jellyroll, like sculpture", barked pornographically, is Black at is Blackest and best.
Sex is one thing, romance is entirely another. Black can sound plaintive and pained, but, deep down, where
the W chromosome lurks, he just can' t take life seriously enough to be a true romantic. For Black, life can
be dirty, cruel, funny, sometimes all three at once, but it's never huge enough, never melodramatic enough,
never clearcut enough to be romantic. Consequently, Pixies ruin the Mary Chain's "Head On . For those
of you unfamiliar with the original, it was a dark, ecstatic pop song imbued with a flickering post-Acid
keyboard and the regulating thwack of a drum-machine. The best that could be said for the Pixies version is
that it sounds like the Sex Pistols when the Pistols were just Paul Cook and Steve Jones. It does not, as has
been previously mooted, make the Mary Chain sound like Chesney Hawkes. It simply makes Pixies look
like insensitive chumps.
Pixies do, however, share the Mary Chain's love of intricate, insidious melodies and unforgettable hooks
(probably why the song was covered in the first place) and this is best exemplified by the aforementioned
"Alex Eiffel" (re-sic) and "Palace Of The Brine". Here, in fact throughout most of the album, Black
actually sings, reserving his famous scream for the memorable though over-rated "Planet Of Sound", the
highly forgettable "Sad Punk" and the inexplicable "U-Mass". "U-Mass" is a tough and fairly nasty
rock song about the University Of Massachussetts and its students. Even allowing for Black's lyrical
obliqueness, his hysterically bitter tone suggests he doesn't think much of the place. "It's educational!" he
howls again and again over the final desperately discordant racket, then loses it completely. Prior to
slipping into his straitjacket, though, Black presents us with his argument, the crux of which seems to be
that students don't go to U-Mass to study but to f*** and write shite poetry. Since Francis spent a good deal of
his college career doing just that, it would seem a clear case of the pot calling the kettle Black. Whatever, it's most
definitely a case of biting the hand that feeds. Whis is always commendable.
All this said, "Trompe Le Monde" is, if not Pixies' most inspired album, then certainly their most technically
accomplished. And, though one third of its 15 tracks, like its cover, are damnably obvious and purposefully
loopy, at least another third are excellent. This is par for the course. Pixies have always been flawed and, because
they are the kind of people they are, always will be. If you thought any of their records since "Surfer Rosa" were
worth owning, then "Trompe Le Monde" most definitely is too. If, like us, you had your doubts, borrow it or
tape it, just get to hear it before chucking your money around.
Take it seriously. Sheep were blinded for this album.
The Stud Brothers
'Trompe Le Monde' is a greasy slab of
noise, devoid of the variety of
previous Pixies works, and strapped with a desire
to sound harder, grungier, and more love-less
than ever before. The lyrics of Black Francis
are not those of someone inspired by language,
but someone obsessed by sci-fi, handing out
vocals at a moment's notice, no thought for a
rewrite, and too charmless to pass for more than
Though their eagerness to record fresh material
every year has to be admired, the Pixies have
suffocated their creative strengths and trampled
dirt into their fairy dust. Those of you who
like that grating surf guitar sound the Pixies
have claimed for themselves will have to do
battle with a production that's too up-tight to
break out those frighteningly brilliant riffs of
yore. This is music for mudslingers not
gunslingers, too intense to take in one listen.
Its only hope as an album is that live workings
of the same material will snap its rigor mortis
and set the individual songs racing like
meteorites - because half of them really deserve
that freedom. There's no doubting the Pixies'
abilities, they create tensions and
structures in their songwriting that
set them leagues apart from the generation that
used noise to hide lack of talent, but 'Trompe
Le Monde' finds them stuck in the grease between
Space, guns, construction, sound, acid and sex
are the order of the day as Charles, Kim, Joey
and David sweep through their new songs like
lava down the mount. In all furnace the material
never lets up, it's harsh and hellish from the
off, waving a fist in the direction of hard rock
riffs on 'Planet Of Sound' and 'Space (I Believe
In)', and encouraging Black Francis to whine and
mewl at will on 'U-Mass'. The structures of
these new Pixie-songs, though, are blunt and
gristly. In the past their music has chased the
listener through a song, inspiring and
entertaining as it goes, leaving you
disappointed when they end. Here the songs are
so raw they're frustrating. They've attempted to
write 'Darklands' and come up with 'The Frenz
Experiment' and left it choking on its own
The cover of the Mary Chain's 'Head On' is
bizarre. The Pixies have written some excellent
songs here, 'Alec Eiffel' and 'Bird Dream Of
The Olympus Mons' we will come to, but to adopt
a riff, a structure, a gasping lyric, a love so
twisted and classic as 'Head On' is to highlight
every dark rusty corner of 'Trompe Le Monde' for
what it is. You just don't want to hear The
Pixies arseing about in tortuous fashion
elsewhere when you can hear them apply their
characteristic paint-job to the Reid brothers
very obvious talent.
If you're familiar with the darker moments of
Nick Cave, The Fall and the Mary Chain, then
it's perfectly clear where the Pixies are racing
for, 'Lovely Day' in particular is jaunty and
stylish enough to have escaped from, the
recorded works of the above.
'Motorway To Roswell' could have turned up late
from the 'Doolittle' session. A track with space
and charm, Charles' vocals don't sound like a
pig on a skewer, on the hard-shoulder Joey's
guitars chop and change with distinction, and
the song builds - so few of these do. An
atmosphere is created, the song ends with
screaming feedback marking the memory, and sets
the pace for the closing song 'The Navajo Know',
the band's only attempt to recreate those humming
guitar pieces that could have fallen from heaven
or vintage cowboy and redskin flicks.
While 'Palace Of The Brine' offers a rich,
glowing staple to 'Trompe Le Monde', its guitars
and vocals crush grooved into one, the riff a
respectable backbone of sound, the structure
capturing the Pixies on top form, it's the third
track 'Alec Eiffel' that will come to be as
popular as 'Debaser' live. A two-minute thrash
through the story of Alec 'Little' Eiffel and
his Tower De Force that could have been
scribbled on the back of a handkerchief, it's a
song that cuts into the psyche like a knife, the
guitars are regimented but insane, they slash,
slice and stab freely whilst Charles and Kim get
all intergalactic with their vocals.
Presented as tracks one to 15, with its garish
cover, over-compensated production techniques,
and ugly snarls, 'Trompe Le Monde' is a tedious
beast, but climb inside it, rip it apart and
explore the pockets of brilliance and you'll
know the Pixies are still up there, they just
need some secateurs. It's dark and dirty, and
some of it's downright unbearable, but it will
grow on you. They could have come to the party
in a speedboat and instead they showed in a
battleship. And I hardly even mentioned the
studied beauty of 'Bird Dream...'
Boston's Pixies have already ascended close to stadium status
judging from their recent triumph at Crystal Palace. Yet their
mounting success betrays no loss of tension in their angular guitar
rock and no desire to tame Black Francis' s wilful muse.
This Fifth outing has long been rumoured as their heavy metal
album but, despite oodles of snarling riffs and twisted guitar lines,
Pixies' roots remain Firmly in punk, garage and trash pop. Even
when Black Francis is at his most demented on Sad Punk or
the sardonic Subbacultcha, he still sounds like he's relishing
a joke and it is that mixture of detachment and sheer
exuberance that make Trompe Le Monde an unqualified
Several of the songs here manage to combine furious
garage riffing with sudden Flashes of pop melody that
make Pixies sound like the missing link between The
Kinks and Glarn. Palace Of The Brine and Alec Eiffel
thrive on this combination of a stack of walled guitars
and singalong phrases that manage to thrust their
head above the pounding drums, strangled guitars
and Black Francis's alternatively dry and berserk
Planet Of Sound, Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons
and Jesus And Mary Chain's Head On are all authentic pop
anthems that somehow manage to update the new wave
legacy of an Only Ones or earlier B-52's. But they still refuse
to strike easy poses or make overblown gestures, relying
instead on a droll sense of the absurd, some surprising
melodic twists and a ferocious sense of attack currently lacking
in virtually all the opposition.
Above all, Pixies manage to combine the grunge rock attack
of songs like Space with a liberating sense of playful fun that
never deserts them. God knows what Black Francis is on about
but any man who can happily compare a girl to jellyroll and
sculpture in the same breath is clearly alright. Daft but deadly.
Last Updated 06-03-97