Posted by Brandon Vesely on 07/03 at 03:33 PM
Pixies released a new track, “Bagboy,” on Wednesday June 28. The group’s first song release in nine years continues their legacy of important contributions to the alternative genre.
Pixies influence on a variety of important alternative artists and the direction of the genre as a whole is undeniable, despite their lack of commercial success. Formed in Boston in 1986, the band’s musical endeavors encompass a variety of subgenres including indie, surf-punk, and noise rock.
Pixies’ founding members, lead guitarist Joey Santiago and vocalist Black Francis, met at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The duo began to play together on a recreational basis, but started taking their musical pursuits more seriously after Francis dropped out of UMass in 1984. As the pair grew increasingly vested in their music, they moved to Boston and recruited the remainder of the group’s four original members, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering.
The experimental group began playing at local venues and clubs, and put out their first demo, The Purple Tape, which garnered enough attention to land them a record deal with English record label 4AD. Once onboard with 4AD the group combined new tracks with songs from The Purple Tape to put out their first LP, Come on Pilgrim, released in September of 1987. Pilgrim was largely a noise rock record, that featured songs with controversial and religious themes.
Pixies followed up Come on Pilgrim with the release of their first full-length studio album less than a year later. Released in 1988, Surfer Rosa achieved little commercial or popular success, but gained reverence as an innovative and influential alternative rock album. This work was diverse and included both melodic and heavy tracks, many of which again included contentious themes. The album’s three most popular tracks were “Gigantic,” “Where Is My Mind?,” and “Cactus.” The album has received critical acclaim from a variety of authoritative sources including Pitchfork and Rolling Stone and achieved gold status in 2005 . Kurt Cobain mentioned Surfer Rosa as an indispensable influence for the songwriting, and for the production of Nirvana’s iconic album Nevermind.
Following the release of Surfer Rosa, Pixies embarked on a European tour which helped them increase their visibility and reputation within the underground alternative scene.
In 1988, they began work on their second full-length album, Doolittle, which they released through the larger American record label Elektra. Doolittle, possibly the group’s most commercially successful album, is generally considered more melodic and pop-oriented than Rosa and included hits like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” “Here Comes Your Man” reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and the album as a whole peaked at number 98 on the Billboard 200.
During the production of Doolittle, inner-group tensions began to fester, particularly between bassist Kim Deal and Black Francis. These conflicts complicated the production of the group’s third album, Bossanova. By 1990, Deal had formed another band, The Breeders, (which would also go on to become an influential alternative group), and only reconvened with the rest of Pixies for recording sessions.
Nonetheless, Bossanova, which hit stores in August of 1990, peaked at number 70 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and yielded popular tracks like “Valouria” and “Dig for Fire.” Bossanova was fundamentally a surf rock album and its lyrics focused on extraterrestrial beings and the mysteries of outer space.
Pixies final album release to date, Trompe le Monde, came out in 1991 and was significantly heavier than Bossanova peaking at 92 on the Billboard 200. The album’s most popular tracks include “Planet of Sound,” “Head On,” and “Letter to Memphis.”
Trompe le Monde received considerable critical recognition and the band followed its release with a massive North American tour.
During this 1992 tour, tensions between group members reached a fever pitch, and Francis announced the group’s official breakup in 1993. In the years after the group’s dissolution, Francis released multiple solo albums and Deal continued her work with The Breeders, achieving considerable success with the 1993 album, Last Splash.
After years of rumors, the legendary quartet reunited in 2004 and embarked on an extensive world-wide tour. Additionally, they released their first new track in over a decade, “Bam Thwok,” a poppier track that garnered considerable commercial and critical success. The group continued to tour and play festivals like Lollapalooza throughout the 2000s to the delight of an extremely loyal fan base.
The group’s cult-like following and reputation among other alternative artists, despite their relatively small music catalog and modest commercial success, shows their legacy of musical innovation and undeniable contributions to the 1990s alternative genre.
Bassist Kim Deal does not contribute to the group’s newest track, “Bagboy,” a surfy track with provocative lyrics. Regardless, the track reflects the group’s tradition of creativity and willingness to touch on controversial and sometimes unpleasant topics.
I’d highly recommend checking out the new track, which can be downloaded for free on the group’s website, and if you like what you hear, pick through their four full-lengths, all of which are available on Spotify.
Author: Brandon Vesely
Bio: Brandon Vesely is originally from the Pittsburgh area and is currently a junior majoring in Public Relations and Spanish at Penn State. In his free time he enjoys reading, writing, biking, and spending time outdoors. His musical interests are wide-ranging and include a variety of alternative genres including post-hardcore, indie, noise pop, and pop punk. Some of his favorite artists are Bayside, Yeasayer, Phantogram, and Fireworks.
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