In 1986, the man known as Black Francis (and later Frank Black) gave up the idea of going to New Zealand to see Halley’s Comet to form a band. That band was the Pixies, who inspired countless others in their first lifespan.
They split in 1993, reformed in 2004 (although founding member/bassist Kim Deal quit in 2013) and have a new album, Head Carrier, due out on September 30. A long, if broken, life… but what are their essential albums?
The impressive debut produced by Steve Albini announced a very different-sounding band (with odd lyrics) and topped the US indie charts. Raw, influential (Cobain loved it and got Albini in for Nirvana’s In Utero) and often bruisingly melodic alongside the sonic aggression.
The ‘hits’ album produced by Gil Norton, which includes Monkey Gone to Heaven and the poppy Here Comes Your Man with indie radio favourites Debaser and Crackity Jones. The easy-entry album for sometimes uneasy listening, and the quiet/loud dynamic which became a grunge hallmark.
After the spacerock-cum-surf sound and themes of Bossanova the previous year, this was a return to their raw mix of power pop, alt-rock and melodic noise. Not the critics’ favourite (too much sci-fi), but fans loved it.
A collection of the three EPs released over 2013-2014 (all produced by Norton), and the first release without Deal. The strong beginning of their second life.
Black Francis’ output as Frank Black has its many highlights in a pop-meets-noise way, notably 1994’s Teenager of the Year and, for real fans, the curiosity Frank Black Francis double from 2004 which comprises one disc of pre-Pixies demos, and another disc on which he revisits some Pixies songs in a stripped-back manner. Deal’s band The Breeders (with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses) kicked off with the powerful Pod (1990) and peaked with Last Splash (1993).
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