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Various Artists - Where Is My Mind?

Remembering The Pixies
by: bart blasengame

If you blinked you missed them, and if you missed them, well, you missed out, because in their six years of existence the Pixies took a chainsaw to the musical establishment, striking a blow for independent labels and ushering in the format we now know as "alternative music." Everything that has become a musical cliché today - loud/soft dynamics, primal screaming as vocal expression, swirling, bludgeoning waves of guitar - were for the most part pioneered by the Pixies when they stumbled out of the Boston club circuit in 1987. As was the case for most of their six-year existence, the Pixies were just too far ahead of their time for their own good, sonic aliens with loud guitars and a tubby bipolar vocalist who could peel the paint off walls with his tire-screeching yell.

But back in 1987 nobody seemed to care.

Hair metal, New Kids on the Block and folkish outings from U2 and Tracy Chapman ruled the charts. So, when 4AD released the Pixies' first album, Come on Pilgrim, nobody was quite sure what to make of it.

Abrasive.
Weird.
Aggressive.
Disjointed.

The Pixies - Black Francis (now Frank Black) on vocals and guitar, Joey Santiago on lead, David Lowering on the drums and Kim Deal (remember The Breeders?) on bass - were all of those things and more, but above all they were groundbreaking. Walls were pushed back when they played, landscapes were created and then blown apart and put back together again in jagged pieces.

By the time the Pixies released their second album, 1988's Surfer Rosa, people had stopped covering their ears long enough to get a good listen. Pretty soon, a cult following formed and the Pixies were making a name for themselves outside of Boston.

Then came 1989's Doolittle - and everything changed. With bone jarring songs like "Debaser", "Wave of Mutilation", "Gouge Away", "Tame" and even a few mini-cross over ditties like "Here Comes Your Man" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven", the Pixies became in-stant torch bearers for college rock on par with R.E.M.

But unlike their brethren from Athens, the Pixies lacked the even keel to make it in the mainstream. Too volatile musically to be pigeon-holed into one genre, they stuck to their indie-roots and released two more great albums, 1990's "Bossanova" and 1991's "Trompe Le Monde" Then, near the pinnacle of their career, they broke up, which makes sense - at least in Pixie-land.

You see, with these guys, there was never any point of reference. There was no sense of deja vu because you hadn't heard anything quite like this before.

Surf-a-billy space rock?
Beach Boys meet Black Sabbath?
Psychopathic balladry?

Yes. No. Maybe.

In fact, the full brunt of the Pixies influence probably wasn't felt until a noisy three-piece out of Seattle dropped a aural bomb on the world with their second album, "Nevermind." That band was Nirvana and from the day Kurt Cobain was thrust into the limelight as the savior of a lost generation he swore all he was really trying to do was "make a Pixies album."

In fact, on Nirvana's final studio album, the under-appreciated In Utero, the band brought in Steve Albini - the man who produced the Pixies first album.

But Nirvana wasn't the only group inspired to pick up the guitar by the Pixies, which is evident by the 15 bands that contribute to the just-released tribute album, Where is my Mind?

While Where is my Mind? offers mostly straight-forward interpretations of some of the Pixies biggest non-hits by Eve 6 ("Allison"), Weezer ("Velouria") and Superdrag ("Wave of Mutilation"), there are excep-tions. Reel Big Fish offer a surprisingly techno-spliced "Gigantic", Nada Surf fade in with a dreamy "Where is my Mind?" and a band called Far deconstructs "Monkey Gone to Heaven" to its bare bones.

Local H gets the gold star for effort, however, on their rendition of the Pixies scream therapy romp, "Tame". The spirit is willing and the guitars more than able but try as he might, Scott Lucas can't match Black Francis in the rage department, forcing him to opt instead for the ragged, subdued growl that closes out the track.

All in all it's a nice try, and nicer still that bands with clout are taking time to remember their forefathers. But in the end, all it really does is remind us that the originals were so much better, and that there will never be another band quite like the Pixies.

Rest in peace.


Artist Various Artists
Album Where Is My Mind?
Label Glue Factory
Date 06.08.99
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Rating

2.5 out of 5.0