Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pixies live 91

Pixies, Brixton Academy, London
The Observer,  June 30th, 1991
by Simon Reynolds

After four years and four albums, the Boston-based Pixies have an unrivalled reputation as purveyors of rock 'n' roll at its most untamed. By 1989's Doolittle LP, you could go to a Pixies gig and be sure to see members of the audience stripped to the waist and flailing their limbs dementedly. But this bestial delirium was the proper response to songs such as 'Debaser' and 'I Bleed', whose lyrics both revelled in and recoiled from the ecstasy and horror of carnal existence.

Last year's Bossanova LP aroused suspicions that Pixies were mellowing: its plangent melodies and intricate harmonies suggested that their patron saint was no longer Iggy Pop but Brian Wilson. But with their most recent single, 'Planet of Sound', the Pixies have returned to the grunge that won them their huge cult following. And the rumour is that their forthcoming album, Trompe Le Monde, marks a move towards heavy metal, in a bid to conquer the MTV heartland of America.

At Brixton Academy Pixies look as if they are limbering up for a future of playing stadiums. Their show has shed the last vestiges of their garage band origins and is now a formidable spectacle. While the band stay virtually motionless throughout, they're framed by a fantastic light show and play in front of a surreal installation of translucent towers. And — in a cute allusion to the heavy metal rumours — a line of Marshall amplifiers stretches, across the stage behind them, against which is propped an armory of guitars.Pixies use this weaponry to bombard the audience with a sound that combines the sculpted fury of the heaviest metal, the visceral clout of punk, and the febrile tempo of rockabilly.

Singer Black Francis may not have the elegantly wasted physique of a rock shaman, but he has the voice. Inside this chubby, genial-looking chap, there's a rock 'n' roll monster. Adding to the group's rabid aura, drummer David Lovering appears at first glance to be muzzled (in fact, he's wearing a head-mike).

The big-budget light show complements the music superbly. For 'The Happening', a song about UFOs, flood lights swirl like the climax of Close Encounters, For 'Planet Of Sound', the stage is flooded by an infernal scarlet glare. On 'Subbaculcha', Black Francis's voice is mangled through a loudhailer to ungodly effect.

By the time the encore 'Tame' hits its demonic stride, "my mind secedes" (to quote a lyric from 'I Bleed'). After a Pixies show, you stumble out feeling like you want to sink your teeth into something, or somebody. Pixies prove yet again that the devil has all the best riffs.

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