Pixie Pitfall


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With Chicago’s Riot Fest on this weekend’s horizon, fans of ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s punk rock are granted an opportunity to once again bask in the sounds orchestrated by the musicians who brought them through their angsty, teenage years (outdoors). 

Headlined by bands such as the Replacements, Fallout Boy, Blink-182, Pixies, Danzig, and Taking Back Sunday (with current artists that have played Iowa City in the past year such as Best Coast, Dessa, and White Mystery), the rock-music scene has witnessed the rebirths of bands of a past generation (last year featured SoCal punk legends Descendents and Chicago ’90s agro-ska favorite Slapstick).

We have seen great successes in this revival era, like with the resurgence of East Coast alternative clan Dinosaur Jr’s 2012 album I Bet on Sky and most recently (last week) Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre fame’s new project The Julie Ruin’s Run Fast album, which stayed true to Hanna’s trademark up-beat, energetic, soprano-vocal aesthetic driving witty, pathos heavy, narrative lyrics.

One band in particular, however, fell flat on face (and sheet music and stereo) in its attempt: Pixies. To which I struggle in still addressing it as.

Pixies, most notable for the albums Surfer Rosa and Doolittle (1988-89), along with commercial success from the song “Where Is My Mind?” (iconic anthem of the dark and twisted cult classic film Fight Club), released EP1 last week.

The first new cut released before EP1, “Bagboy,” brought about encouragement, leaving me hopeful that Kim Shattuck’s presence could possibly do justice in replacing the wistfully enchanting female background vocals left void in Kim Deal’s messy departure. Then the EP came out, and optimism quickly faded, as did the bass lines I had grown to know and love. I tuned in on repeat in hope of finding a silver lining, ultimately left only with chagrin.

Nirvana smelled like teen spirit, but tracks such as “Indie City” reek like desperation to get back to where the band once held reign.  Sturdy on the infrastructure of Deal’s presence. What was once a mildly surfy, folk-indie revelation has now corroded into a disengaged, lethargic product, leaving me disdained over Black Francis’ (frontman) decision to continue capitalizing on the name Pixies, blemishing what the band once meant to rock fans in what now feels like a past life.

The new sound is bland, uninspired, and lackadaisical, reeking with the dense air of trying too hard to reincarnate the late-80s sound rather than maturing, evolving into something fresh in lieu of Deal’s absence. The overall attempt at punky-angst come across insincere at best, insulting at worst. Deal was too integral (“Gigantic,” if you will) a part for the band to have ventured in the realm of create musings under the same style.

Everything about this feels like a bitter divorce, and we’re the children left to full custody in the hands of overzealous authoritarian dad, while relatable rockin’ mom is off starting a new life with her hip step-family.

Without name and brand recognition, the Deal-less Pixies would likely be relegated to playing Saturday evenings at hipster clubs in Williamsburg and not at a festival before thousands of loyal fans from all over the country.  Let’s do our best to remember the greatness of Pixies past without toxification, drowning all things to come from our short-term memory.

New rock songs to check out this week:
• The Julie Ruin: “Just My Kind”
• Sleigh Bells: “Bitter Rivals”
• Arcade Fire: “Reflektor”
• MGMT: “Life is a Lie”
• Haim: “The Wire”

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