Dear Mary Jane-
You may be my new official favorite person in the world. This is a fantastic question.
I, myself, am a huge Pixies
fan. Gigantic. If you want someone cut out to answer this question, then Here Comes Your Man. Luckily, though, I'm not the only Board writer in history to like this band. Check out Board Question #25738
for some very good input from Petra.
I'm actually very excited for you, because I've listened to this stuff many a time, but you have the great opportunity to hear it all with fresh ears and wonder what kind of smoke your friend is crackin'. I say that because, well... the Pixies are pretty weird. Especially if you're a modern mainstream musical listener. Unless you're kinda into alternative rock already, you may be in for a bit of a shock. If you ARE an alt person, we should talk.
Oh, and I should probably say that the Board as an entity does not support sharing music if done in an illegal way blah blah whatever. I, personally, have views on this that will not be addressed at the present time.
Okay, to the subject matter. We'll have a brief history lesson, but this is a huge deal in my mind, so you'll have to indulge me for a few. Maybe you'll learn something.The Pixies
were formed in Boston in 1985. The band met its untimely demise in 1993. In the intervening years, they released, well, the five albums you listed (we'll get to this "December 18" business later)(You do have a pretty awesome friend, to have the whole discography.). They are known as one of the most influential rock bands of the time, and it's well-deserved. Let's make a few gross generalizations, shall we? Most of 90s alternative rock can be summed up into three categories: the "Nirvana" category, the "Pearl Jam" category, and the "Weezer" category. (Note to the purists: I'm not saying these bands invented their category, nor that they are the greatest within them, just that they serve best as an example. Plus, they ARE pretty seminal.) Now, the Pearl Jam category doesn't fit into what we're going to talk about, which is just as well since I despise most of it. However, the titular bands of the other categories (which categories I adore) both claim the Pixies as their direct inspiration.
Both Kurt Cobain and Rivers Cuomo explicitly described their adoration and emulation of the Pixies. In my mind, therefore, the Pixies are sort of the Grandpappy of modern alternative.
Each of the members of the band has quite a unique style, which may become apparent to you as you begin to listen. For starters: you'll hear some Spanish. Black Francis has a crazy voice, and an incredible range, from "nice 'n' melodic" singing to "melt your face off" screaming (Not the kind of screaming in today's stuff. Just... listen to it.). Joey Santiago is an interesting guitar player; sometimes he seems almost in a different song. Or galaxy. Or key, at the least. The adjective that comes to mind when I hear him play is "spiraling." That's about as adequately as I can describe it, but it still works fantastically
well with the rest of the band. Kim Deal, on bass, is one of the few elites on my personal "List of Women Who Can Actually Rock." Her riffs are powerful, and her voice can be lovely, as well as quite haunting. The interplay and harmony between her singing and Francis's are nigh unto perfection. And I'm not really a great drum person, but David Lovering is darn good on his set. When I pay attention to it, especially in something like "Vamos," I think "Dang, that guy is solid."
Fine, fine, I'll try to calm down a bit and answer what you asked. But I hope it's obvious how much I love this band. That's what I'm getting at, here. And I'm not alone; Radiohead, U2, the Foo Fighters, David Bowie, Coldplay, The Strokes, Husker Du, Spoon, and Blur, among many others (like Daniel Radcliffe!), are all avowed fans.
By most accounts, you should probably start with Doolittle
. It's definitely their most easily grasped and accessible. I, personally, am a strict Always-Listen-to-the-Whole-Album freak, but I also realize that not everyone is, so here are some specific track recommendations, along with a brief comment on what they're about, since you asked:
Debaser: track 1, and a total classic. And it's about Un Chien Andalou
, a surrealist film by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali.
Wave of Mutilation: about driving your car into the ocean, of course!
Dead: the story of David and Bathsheba.
Here Comes Your Man: If you
can tell me
what this is about, I'd be obliged. And impressed; it's one of the greater mysteries of this era. Crazy good, though.
Monkey Gone to Heaven: A great song. Mostly about pollution and the environment and whatnot. Also features some Hebrew Numerology
Mr. Grieves and Crackity Jones are also some personal favorites from that CD.
Next, I'd attack Surfer Rosa
. This is the one I actually cut my teeth on, and I think it may still be my favorite.
Bone Machine: Simply Awesome.
Gigantic: one of Kim Deal's key contributions to the band. Great stuff.
Where is my Mind?: Beautiful. Most popular Pixies song, hands down. It happens to be based on thoughts Black Francis had while scuba diving. Also used fantastically in Fight Club.Come On Pilgrim
is your next step. This is their first officially released EP, and probably has some of the most straightforward rock songs the Pixies ever wrote.
Caribou: Listen to him wail...
Isla de Encanta: 90% Spanish. 100% Awesome.
Nimrod's Son: There's a bad word in this one, but hey, it's a great song. Excellent use of acoustic guitar.
, you may enter rough waters. It was for me, at least. I love this album now, but when I started, it was somewhat hard to enjoy. I almost had to make myself like it. Sounds strange, yes, but I already knew I loved this band so I gave this one some extra attention. Think of it as an investment; it took an initial sacrifice, but I've gotten more payback from it than I ever put in. Some people, notably my sister-in-law, don't get this. Anyway. Track picks:
Rock Music: It rocks! And this is the screaming I'm talking about.
Velouria: Later covered (in tribute) by Weezer.
Is She Weird: I don't get this song. But I know I like it.
Dig for Fire: What Black Francis called his "Talking Heads tribute." It's a neat one.
The Happening: Francis had some strange obsessions with surf rock (see also: Wave of Mutilation, Cecilia Ann, Allison, etc.) and UFOs (see also: most of Trompe le Monde). This is a good one for the UFOs. Plus, it mentions the Great Salt Lake!Trompe le Monde
was the last and probably the least of the Pixies' albums. It's still very good, but this is basically the first Frank Black solo album (he reversed his name when he went solo), and it's kinda different. It tends to be heavier than their other albums as well. Still:
UMass: "IT'S EDUCATIONAL!" That'll tell you pretty much everything you need to know.
Letter to Memphis: another of the Pixies' most well-beloved songs.
Subbacultcha: Pokes some good ol' fun at what we might now call Goths. And it's funny.
Again, the entirety of these albums are great. My offering highlights is not an excuse to miss out on enjoying the greatness that is each of those CDs.
As for "December 18, 2004," I'll assume that that's a copy of a concert recording. In 2004, the Pixies played a long-anticipated reunion tour, and recorded and sold copies of the last twelve performances (As a side note, I, for reasons inexplicable, missed the show they played in Salt Lake City. I still haven't forgiven myself for it, and probably never will.). The full title would be "Twelve Final Shows: Live in New York - 12/18/2004" and it could be either the "Early Show" or "Late Show," since there are two recordings from that day. It looks to have a pretty good track lineup, but you have album versions of all but two songs on there ("Winterlong" and "In Heaven" are cover songs), so don't fret over live stuff too much too soon, I say.
So, Mary Jane... feel overwhelmed yet? Hopefully you can take all of this in, eventually. All I want is for somebody out there who doesn't already know this band to give them the chance they deserve, because it's completely worth it. If you enjoy, come to enjoy, or need to find out how to get some of this music, please, please, please send me an e-mail. foreman dot theboard at gmail dot com.
This Monkey's gone to Heaven,