Two weeks ago, I mocked the Pixies for sending out a press release that Kim Deal had quit the band. What was there to quit when the band hadn't toured in years and had only recorded one new song in the past two decades? Then last Friday, The Pixies mocked us back with a new song and corresponding video titled "Bagboy."
Throughout the weekend, I listened to Bagboy over and over struggling to form an opinion on it. My immediate reaction was it sounded more like Weezer with a drum machine than the Pixies.
At close to 5 minutes, it is by far the longest song the Pixies have ever released. The flabby repetitiveness stands out especially from a band famous for cutting the fat out of the songs and delivering them in a fit three minutes of action packed urgency. But "Bagboy" does feature distinguishing traits unique to the Pixies, from Joey Santiago's hyper guitar to someone's girlish vocals that stand in such sharp contrast to Frank Black's howling screams.
When I learned those feminine backing vocals were not recorded by Kim Deal, but by some chap named Jeremy Dubs, I was left even more confused, so I found myself searching the internet for the song's lyrics. Reading them made me sad. The Pixies at one period of time were the greatest band ever. But they can't be any more. Not now.
I learned of the Pixies after they had broken up. Frank Black had a solo career and Kim Deal was on MTV with her videos for the Breeders. So I knew what the two of them looked like, but somehow I couldn't imagine what the Pixies looked like. They remain one of the few important bands of the '80s or '90s without an iconic video. Their music famously described as being loud then quiet then loud hooked you immediately. Their verses and choruses were so loaded that they created a cinematic experience in your mind. The words weren't always annunciated clearly, so each listener had their own movie.
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The Pixies were as big as you could be without being really famous. They opened for U2 on their Zoo TV arena tour, Nirvana and Radiohead constantly name checked them as influences, but still you had to seek them out. Mainstream rock radio never played them, not even when those stations dubbed themselves alternative. The internet was in its formative stages, so while there were some fan sites, you had to search long and hard to find what little press they had like that 1988 article from Melody Maker. They were a cult band in every sense of the word. If you liked the Pixies, that was it, you were OK.
Then the movie Fight Club used their song "Where Is My Mind" in its final scene. The Pixies reunited for several tours (where they sounded as amazing as you would hope) and in 2004 landed on the cover of Spin magazine. They recorded a song for Shrek 2 called "Bam Thwok" (which shouldn't really count as Kim Deal sings the lead vocals making it sound more like a Breeders song), but until this week, nothing else.
Which brings us back to "Bagboy" whose release was heralded by Rolling Stone and the New York Times. If I could unsee the video, I believe I would like "Bagboy" more. The images lead you to believe it's about an awkward teenager masturbating, but if I close my eyes and listen to the music, it stands up with the Pixies lessor songs like "Mr. Grieves" or "Dancing The Manta Ray," a good beat but lyrics that do not demand interpretation.
So on the eagerly awaited comeback scale with the Beatles' "Free As A Bird" at ten and the Star Wars prequels a zero, I give "Bagboy" a shaky six. Solid, reminiscent echoes of what we loved about the Pixies, but not going to convert any new followers to their cult.
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