There are few bands who came up in the Alternative Indie scene of the late 80’s who are as iconic, and groundbreaking as Boston’s own The Pixies. Fronted by antagonistic Black Francis, and joined by Joey Santiago, Kim Deal, and David Lovering, this band not only defined alternative rock of the early 90’s, but also brought forth a rawness to a scene that hadn’t been there before. In preparation for what I’m sure will be a great set this weekend at Shaky Knees, I give you the Top Ten Pixies songs. Enjoy!
10. Caribou, Come on Pilgrim
The beginning of the song has a mid western, backroads feel to it, and it winds across the valley in a way that makes you wonder if anything is out there. Black’s voice and the softness at which the vocals are expelled don’t last long, but it never gets in the way of the great song .It’s a song that changes pretty quickly, between the throaty latter singing and the abrasiveness of the textures. I get the impression that some people never really think of this as their first record, but it essentially is, and even though it’s considered a mini album, with songs like this it stands as a great starting place for a monumental band.
9. Here Comes Your Man, Doolittle
Certain songs fit perfectly in situations, and if you were looking for a setting for this track, which finds us at Number 9 on the Top Ten Pixies songs, it would undoubtedly be a peaceful day on a gorgeous white sanded beach with blue skies fading into pinkish hues as the sun sets. It’s a breezy, moving song that is gentle and capable of making you forget all of your real world baggage, even if just for a moment. Kim Deal’s add on during the chorus also give the song a little sweet nudge into perfect days with the world at your finger tips. If you want a track that compliments itself to a gorgeous day near the water with people you care about, look no further.
8. Wave of Mutilation, Doolittle
A little bit of a rougher song around the edges, it’s still a damn fine rocker that is everything you want in a immediate rock track. Black’s voice is quick, in control, and it essentially inspires the song to keep up with the pace and force he’s bringing through his voice. It’s also a really swift song, and at just over two minutes you don’t really get the time to settle in and enjoy it, but maybe it works best in a fleeting moment of intensity that makes you want to rock out and get lost in the excitement.
7. Bone Machine, Surfer Rosa
One of the first songs I ever heard from this band, off of the iconic “Surfer Rosa” album, this song, “Bone Machine” isn’t as heavy and intense as you might think from the title, but it’s a damn good song, and the lyrics are wonderfully quirky and subversive. I mean, why would anyone put references to pedophiles in their songs. Also, maybe it’s not the lyrics that are so unnerving by themselves, but the reverence and joy they get delivered with are incredibly unsettling. But that’s what the Pixies do sometimes. They make nonsensical creepy music for hardcore music fans who couldn’t care less the content of the song as long as it’s a good track.
6. Nimrod’s Son, Come on Pilgrim
Another one off this solid record comes at number six on our list of the best Pixies songs. “Nimrod's Son” is a whirlwind of a track, and from the initial outburst of the song, to the gritty guitar playing courtesy of Joey Santiago, it really makes the song more than just another track. The energy they put into this song is yet another reminder of how easily they can switch tempo’s, all the while bringing the heart of soul into one unifying vision. I’m trying to think of more to add to this, but sometimes it’s important to let the song speak for itself.
5. the Holiday Song, Come On Pilgrim
Few bands capture a sound and energy of a certain time quite like this one, but in regards to the spirit of the time, this track fills the void without fail. Number five of the best Pixies song is “the Holiday Song,” which has always felt to me like a tale of two songs. The title makes you think of things that bring happiness, and smiles fill the room. The other end of that message though is how simple joyful event often go to bad places, mostly because people don’t change. It also can be seen as autobiographical, given the long simmering turmoil among all the members, chiefly between Black and Deal.
4. Gouge Away, Doolittle
What drew me into “Gouge Away” initially was the persistence of the drum beat, but underneath and around that there’s much more happening. Deal’s voice whispering around the edge lingers, while the guitar parts are hypnotic and really show much depth the band has. You’ve heard this style of guitar play before, but it’s the Pixies who showed it to the world initially. The band works so well, on songs like this in particular, because they find a way to bring pop sensibilities to an otherwise dirty, punk filled aesthetic and make it their own. Even today there’s not a band capable of that, which might be why the band is still thought of as an important foundation among “the cool kids.”
3. Gigantic, Surfer Rosa
Years ago, I was at a wedding, and was reminded by the groom that this was in fact a love song, albeit a very untraditional, sort of pornographic one. That thought has stayed with me ever since. That reminder has even outlasted the marriage, but that’s neither here nor there. If ever there was one, this is Kim Deal’s shining moment in the band, and credit where credit's due, it’s because the song is fantastically gorgeous. I mean, lyrically it’s sleazy and the innuendos fly at ease, but that doesn’t make a song lose merit. This has been a favorite among the band for years, and that, and for many other reasons it takes the number three spot on the Top Ten Pixies songs.
2. Where is my Mind?, Surfer Rosa
Will anyone ever be able to hear this song without picturing the climactic explosions at the end of the unbelievably superb “Fight Club”? Maybe, but probably not. I guess it all depends on if you’ve seen the movie. Regardless though, this was a main catalyst for the mighty return of the band. These days it’s common place for bands to break up just so they can swindle fans for a reunion tour, but in 2004 it was a foreign concept. The song though, is still cool as hell decades later, and while you might not initially know it’s about skateboarding and trying to land a difficult trick, once you know that you never lose sight of it. Everything about this track works. The lonely guitar chord, Black’s voice, and the distant echo of the instrumentation all play important parts in this masterfully created song.
1. Debaser, Doolittle
How could you go wrong with the opening song from the band’s most amazing album? The number one track on the Pixies top ten songs, “Debaser,” launches us into a world where “slicing up eyeballs” are commonplace, and the surfer vibe throughout only brings the positivity to places the band doesn’t often dwell. It’s always been a phenomenal song, but what it does and how it succeeds go beyond simple guitar parts and cohesiveness. It sets in motion a record that in fifteen tracks solidified the band as legends, and gives us too many worthy songs on a single record. “Debaser” though, is the best, and always will be. It’s also another one that is almost too short for it’s own good, but maybe that plays to the band's strength. I can’t imagine them having nine minutes to build a song. They simply aren’t that type of band. That what makes them so special in the end. They threw together whatever they had, and ran with it, to marvelous success. Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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