5 great lesser-known Pixies songs
Published on July 8th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Pixies made a strong return with brand new single “Bagboy”, even if the absence of Kim Deal is regrettable.
Rocksucker doesn’t take much persuading to slip into a Pixies binge so, suffice it to say, the release of “Bagboy”, quickly followed by the announcement of a UK/European tour for later this year, had us trawling back through their back catalogue for renewed appreciation of one of the greatest, most unique* bands ever to grace planet Earth.
(* Yeah, we know, shouldn’t make comparative forms of an absolute, yadda yadda yadda.)
There’s a good chance you’ll know “Where is My Mind?”, “Debaser” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” – quite possibly “Caribou”, “Gigantic”, “Here Comes Your Man”, “Velouria” and “Alec Eiffel” too – but did you know that Pixies racked up dozens more tracks of this calibre?
To prove our point – and working on the assumption that everything on Surfer Rosa and Doolittle constitutes varying degrees of ‘well-known’ – here are 5 great lesser-known Pixies songs, as handpicked by Rocksucker…
“Ed is Dead” (from 1987 mini-album Come On Pilgrim)
A great early example of how Pixies lent their thrashy power chords a gleeful shine by making major chords of those which conventional progressions would have as minor.
Whether by design or pure instinct, this knack served to bend their ‘power-poppier’ moments out of shape and into freedom like the wrenched-open bars of a prison cell.
Well, it’s a crazy kind of freedom that Pixies revelled in, demonstrated here chiefly by the insouciantly barked (if such a thing is possible) titular refrain. It’s at once hilarious, kind of alarming, otherworldly and marked by the unorthodox punctuation that made this band quite unlike anyone else.
So much of what Pixies did sounded ‘right’ enough to give the illusion of simplicity but, on closer inspection, is doing something thrillingly unexpected at pretty much every turn.
“Ed is Dead” also showcases David Lovering’s rolling drum fills and Joey Santiago’s explosive, deeply unusual yet somehow richly melodic lead guitar work, each of which are intrinsic to the greatness of Pixies.
Quite frankly, we could speak at length about the brilliance of every single track on Come On Pilgrim, so in that respect the selection of “Ed is Dead” is a little arbitrary.
This one, though, demands inclusion…
“I’ve Been Tired” (Come On Pilgrim)
How can you possibly follow a speak-sung Black Francis verse of the following?
One two three
She’s a real left winger ’cause she been down south
And held peasants in her arms
She said, “I could tell stories that could make you cry”
“What about you?”
I said, “Me too
“I could tell you a story that will make you cry”
And she sighed, “Ah”
I said, “I wanna be a singer like Lou Reed”
“I like Lou Reed,” she said, sticking her tongue in my ear
“Let’s go, let’s sit, let’s talk
“Politics go so good with beer
“And while we’re at it baby, why don’t you tell me one of your biggest fears?”
I said, “Loosing my penis to a whore with disease
“Just kidding,” I said
“Losing my life to a whore with disease”
She said, “Excuse me please?”
I said, “Losing my life to a whore with disease”
I said, “Please… I’m a humble guy with a healthy desire
“Don’t give me no shit because…”
That’s right: with a round of Francis and Deal shouting out the titular refrain (again) in that strangely beautiful harmony achievable only to them.
“I’ve Been Tired” also sees Pixies delivering the chorus in rounds of three rather than the conventional four, a seamlessly integrated quirk that would go on to be a recurring facet of their output.
The thing is, Pixies make it sound so gosh darn natural that it’s not always obvious they’re doing it.
Anyway, this is the penultimate track of Come On Pilgrim, the honour of closing ceremony bestowed upon the mighty “Levitate Me”.
Pixies were already all kinds of genius and they arguably still hadn’t even hit their stride.
“Manta Ray” (Doolittle-era B-side)
That sunshine of a Kim Deal backing vocal in the chorus: that kind of thing will be missed, but at least the screaming one-man army of surrealism that is Black Francis/Frank Black remains.
Here we find the two showing both sides of Pixies at the same time, which thinking on they almost always did anyway. “Manta Ray” should also serve as an indicator of just how strong their B-sides were, so you should get the compilation of those as well as everything else.
“Ana” (from 1990 album Bossanova)
Bossanova is less heralded than Surfer Rosa and Doolittle but it is every bit as much of a step forwards in its way.
The album certainly displayed more songwriting sophistication than ever before on the likes of “Velouria” and this chugging, brooding beauty of mysterious psych-glam/glam-psych.
Very conceivably an influence on Super Furry Animals, this one.
“Motorway to Roswell” (from 1991 album Trompe le Monde)
…because even the last Pixies LP, the only one to feel in any way like a shame due to the vocal sidelining of Deal, was brimming with brilliant tunes.
An absence of that special chemistry is bound to disappoint, but the strength of Francis’s songwriting in tandem with Lovering and Santiago makes Trompe le Monde a not unwelcome addition to a truly great back catalogue.
Goodness knows what lies in store for us on the new one but “Bagboy” bodes well.