Death to the Pixies
4AD 1997 (DAD 7011 CD)

The history

The Pixies were one of the best bands ever, period. No argument. Looking back now it's difficult to convey just how different they were in 1987 for so much water has passed under the bridge since then. I saw them live in Newcastle on their first British tour and it was the best gig I'll ever see. The Pixies and the Muses on the same bill! It was the songs, loud guitars and those orgasmic (no other words for them really) choruses - "I've been tired!" for one. I think a review of "Surfer Rosa" said something along the lines of there's something so wrong about the Pixies' songs that's so right and that was it entirely. Familiarity over the years has softened the unexpectedness of the early Pixies a bit, but they're still great. For me, the difference between Frank Black's work and that of the Pixies is in the adopted personas of Mr Kitteridge. Black Francis is just so much more the Pixies than Frank Black.

They released one mini-LP, "Come On Pilgrim" and the full length LP's, "Surfer Rosa", "Doolittle", "Bossanova" and "Trompe Le Monde", all of which are wonderful (perhaps the first three even more so) and all have their own different characters. All remain essential purchases. And now for "Death to the Pixies", a double album (if you're lucky) featuring one Best of set and a live set. Cue the review.

The record

I'm going to start with the live disc first, mainly because it's the reason most Pixies fans will have bought this release. It features 21 tracks from a gig in Holland in 1990, after the release of "Bossanova" and the quality is reasonable. I used to have four of the tracks on a Dutch release of "Trompe Le Monde" , but that got nicked and this disc is my due compensation, I think. I can't say I was over impressed with the quality on the TLM release but over the course of the live disc it seems to be better. Not as good as the live recordings on the "Debaser" or "Gigantic" singles but acceptable.

The Best of disc curiously isn't a particularly good representation of the Pixies. In fact I'd go as far as to say it's the weakest Pixies LP. The tracks are in no rational order and favour "Doolittle" (fair enough) and "Bossanova" (hmm) at the expense of "Come on Pilgrim" and "Surfer Rosa". I presume that the grouping of songs (more or less) by their parent LP is an attempt to give some form of continuity, but if this was the case, surely it would have made more sense to have done this chronologically?

Despite all the gripes the songs themselves survive the compiler's mangle and probably six of my top 10 Pixies' songs make it onto the LP, not bad going considering the usual insistence on including as many singles as possible. My recommendation? Buy all five albums in order (although "Come On Pilgrim" is available on "Surfer Rosa") before buying this, although you may not get the live stuff if you do it this way.

By the way, can anyone explain how the double CD, initial quantities only, sold out then reappeared in the shops again a couple of months later?

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