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Surrealist elements of mutilation, death, religion, and torture are not only relevant to David Lynch’s Hollywood flicks. When interspersed with surprisingly laidback surf rock tunes, these elements stand out in the unpredictably canny music of The Pixies. Their raw untainted lyrical content has been glazed over by great bass lines and trademark howling vocals from their lead man, Black Francis. Gaining more fame in UK/Europe than their native USA, Francis (vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), David Lovering (drums) and Kim Deal (bass, vocals) complete the lineup that has been credited with inspiring the 90s alternative rock breakout. That they did not stick around to reap the benefits of their hard work due to a 1993 breakup won’t deter fans from reliving their past hits. The Pixies are in the midst of a reunion that has seen them attract highly charged crowds clutching their Pixies Tickets and the mayhem is set to continue across the country in the coming months.
Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV (later known as Black Francis) was born in Boston but brought up in Los Angeles by his bar owner father. Getting inspired by punk rock and Christian music at a young age, he began playing his mother’s Yamaha classic guitar at the age of 11. Francis enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He started jamming with suite neighbor Joey Santiago before leaving for Puerto Rico to study Spanish, an experience that was to shape many later Pixies tunes and songs. Upon return, he dropped out with Santiago, composing songs in a warehouse. By 1986, the formation of a working band was top priority. Kim Deal joined as bassist in response to a queer advertisement by the duo in a newspaper, seeking a female bass player who was fond of both folk music icons Peter, Paul and Mary, and Husker Du. Lovering joined on Deal’s husband’s recommendation. Playing live in Boston’ clubs and bars, the Pixies lineup caught the attention of a highly impressed Gary Smith (producer), and Ken Goes became manager. For 4AD Records, they recorded a 17-track “Purple Tape” in a three-day session funded by Francis’ father. Eight of these were released in their first EP Come on Pilgrim (1987), heavily laden with themes of religious symbolism, sexual frustration and rock n roll lifestyle.
Their first full-length album Surfer Rosa stirred up great interest in Europe, and they signed to Elektra Records and struck a beneficial relationship with producer Gil Norton. He produced their next defining album Doolittle, which was a huge critical success. However, tensions began to mount during their European tour after Francis threw a guitar in anger at Deal and she refused to perform later. A short cool-off period only estranged them further and the band split following two further album releases. After 1993, Francis remodeled himself as Frank Black and led the Catholics. Santiago played guitar on the band but also worked solo composing for TV, while Deal teamed with Tanya Donelly to make The Breeders, and Lovering played with Cracker and Donelly. After some low-key reconciliatory efforts and rehearsals, a reunion materialized in 2004. Since then the Pixies have been in constant touring, playing to packed arenas with Pixies tickets holders. The Pixies’ music is a blend of punk rock at its exhilarating best, with elements of surf rock and low-fidelity surfacing often.
Come on Pilgrim (#5 UK Indie albums) was anchored by “Nimrod’s Son”, featuring religious themes and incest, while “I’ve Been Tired” was all about frustration and rock n roll’s wasting lifestyle. Surfer Rosa went Gold, but its critical success with its hard riffs and bizarre winding lyrics was far-reaching, especially on the weight of “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic”. Doolittle became the Pixies’ landmark work, inspiring Nirvana and the alternative scene and standing 226 on Rolling Stones’ All-time list. It sold 1 million copies, with “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” doing great business with dark sacrilegious themes.
Pixies bring the complete package live. Energetic drumming is complemented by Francis’ trademark yowling and abrasive lyrics. The band has been in constant flux since 2004, with their reunion tour becoming the fastest-selling concert in Brixton Academy’s decorated history. They next visit New Jersey and New Hampshire.
Pixies have been putting in powerhouses performances live over the last two decades. Added to that is a tendency to switch gears to extreme proportions with their brash content and tour de force guitar-work. Pixies Tickets are definitely one of the hottest properties this summer.
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