Tag Archives: The Pixies

Black Francis

I like people who get excited about things. Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson, a.k.a. former frontman of The Pixies) gets passionately obsessed about weird things like fringe Dutch musicians. To paraphrase, “Is he weird, is he white, is he promised to the night?” Yes? Bonus.

In the last year Black Francis has released two EPs/short LPs, Bluefinger and SVN FNGRS. I was never a big fan of the Frank Black (and the Catholics) solo stuff, but these new discs more than deserve the old moniker. They rock like nothing I’ve heard of his since The Pixies, and the live show was impeccable.

Bluefinger is a theme album, based on or at least inspired by the drug-crazed life and times of Herman Brood. The disc contains a cover of You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It (by Herman Brood and His Wild Romance), in which you can hear coked-up pounding anguish that makes it such a good song for Black Francis. You can hear how it would influence him. Sort of like, if you listen real hard to Nirvana, it makes so much sense that Kurt Cobain‘s first band was a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

Listen to Threshold Apprehension from Bluefinger and When They Come to Murder Me from SVN FNGRS on his MySpace, but know neither song is as intense as the overall vibe of the discs.

But if I had to choose, I’d pick SVN FNGRS (vowels are so uncool) for sure. The incisively short songs vamp (or is it harp?) on those good ol’ bloody themes: birth, sex, battle, death. Watch the video for the song I Sent Away. The album’s title comes from the seven-fingered-and-toed Cúchulainn, a mythological hero from Irish folklore “known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.” Sounds like the transformation that occurs when pasty, bald (and blue suede shod) Charles Thompson rips into a two-minute song as Black Francis.

I saw Black Francis with a bass player and drummer perform almost every song from both discs at The Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska. The jukebox, the beers, the size (capacity 470!), the jaw-dropping bookings, the overall aesthetic … everything’s perfect in that bar/venue. And Charles commented more than once on how great the club is for performers.

The Slowdown’s excellence comes from the fact that it was created by owner/operators who are musicians themselves–folks from Omaha’s own Saddle Creek Records (Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Cursive, et al.).

I highly recommend The Slowdown … and so do others. It was named Esquire’s Club of the Year.

Getting back to the obsessions of Black Francis. He has recorded songs to accompany the 1915 film Der Golem, which I think will be released as another album soon. This is the third film I know him to sing about, joining the ranks of Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou.

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Toadies

There’s no feeling in the world better than when you first find out your favorite band is coming to town.

Except the feeling when you learn that one of your favorite bands is back together, releasing a new album, and touring. Can you see me jumping up and down?!?!

The new Toadies album, No Deliverance, comes out August 19. Stream the title track at their MySpace.

An article/interview at Spin ends by quoting lead singer Todd Lewis on “what the Toadies, especially after all these years, can offer fans and the music industry that no other rock band can:

‘Balls. A ton of balls.'”

And they’ve got lots of tour dates in which to teabag us with their incredible charisma and raucous stage presence.

The Toadies broke up seven years ago while I was living in Dallas, just a couple of years after Tripping Daisy called it quits. It was a one-two punch to my rock-show loving soul. Two of my favorite frontmen, first Tim DeLaughter (a long post of mine) and then (real first name Vaden) Todd Lewis, gone away. Each quickly moved on to another great project, The Polyphonic Spree and The Burden Brothers, respectively. But I always missed l’original.

Before I rhapsodize about The Toadies, I do want to briefly plug The Burden Brothers’ discs Buried in Your Black Heart (buy it) and Mercy (buy it and listen to some of it). I can’t do much better than this Village Voice description: “BB are a kick ass hard rock combo who riff off Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age’s neo metal blues and Weezer /Pixies power chord sing-alongs.” It’s more in your face than you’re expecting, and who doesn’t want that? When I saw them, they hadn’t released a proper album yet, just a homemade EP, and for a 15-minute song they thrash-jammed while Todd was repeating (screeching) the phrase Dirty Sanchez, which whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

The Burden Brothers were/are something of a local supergroup, with Todd joined by Taz Bentley, the former drummer for Reverend Horton Heat. BB is shuffling other personnel right now but haven’t “broken up.” [It is hard to do … ]

Now, on to The Toadies!

In 1994 the album Rubberneck broke. Yeah, it’s the one with Possum Kingdom, which you know you crank on your radio every time it plays on “’90s at noon.” You also know you’re unsure what it’s about … you’re hoping you’re not getting too excited about date rape while you sing along from the drivers’ seat.

Here are some more YouTubed music videos for songs from Rubberneck: Tyler, Backslider, and Mister Love.

It wasn’t until 2001 when the band struggled through record company problems to get Hell Below/Stars Above released. The title track is perfect in so many ways, pushing the band into a dynamic range they had not previously revealed.

Both albums are amazing. So, so solid. I can’t wait for the new one in August!

In the meantime, grab these rare tracks from a die-hard fan:

Toadies’ I Hope You Die

Toadies’ Possum Kingdom (Live)

Toadies’ cover of Talking Heads’ Not in Love

And also download the mp3 of this cover of (you guessed it!) The Pixies’ Where is My Mind.

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Splice

These two songs are like cars from different subbrands built on the same chassis. I really enjoy them both, but back-to-back I’m a little annoyed the hooks are so very similar. I checked The Breaks, and there is no common sample noted there … ideas?

Kids with GunsGorillazDemon Days (2005)

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsDig, Lazarus, Dig (2008)

And then the Nick Cave sounds a lot like The PixiesCactus from Surfer Rosa (2003)…

… which The Swell Season (download mp3) and David Bowie (watch) both cover live.

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The Pixies: loudQUIETloud

It’s cool to shun Pitchfork (and perhaps, too, to defend it against the backlash). It clearly jumped the shark a long time ago, just as Sterogum may have with its most recent upgrade. These conduits of indie info have become more rationalized and less ragamuffin. In the tiny subculture of indie music geekdom that Stella Splice inhabits, identifying what is no longer cool is just as important as identifying what will soon be cool. [Related aside: I really want this t-shirt that says, “I Listen To Bands That Don’t Even Exist Yet.”]

However, Pitchfork.tv is a new branch of Pitchfork that’s useful and cool.

For instance, right now, but only until Monday April 14, they’re offering a stream of The Pixies 2004 reunion tour documentary loudQUIETloud (buy it for cheap). If you missed the stream, you can watch the trailer here. The setlist/soundtrack includes full or partials of the songs Where is My Mind?, Hey, Here Comes Your Man, UMass, Caribou, Gouge Away, Nimrod’s Son, In Heaven, Wave of Mutilation, Something Against You, Bone Machine, Cactus, Vamos, and Monkey Gone to Heaven. The score is done by Daniel Lanois.

I saw a show on the reunion tour. It was everything I’d hoped it could be. Kim couldn’t quit smiling. And the coolest moment was when they ended the show. Instead of ducking backstage to wait an appropriate amount of time for us to demand an encore, they came to the front of the stage and waved heartily and said sincere thank-yous. After a short while, when the audience felt it had shown its thanks for the chance to see The Pixies again, and when the band had thanked us for success in absentia and the chance to make a little money again, they played their encore.

Pitchfork.tv features a bunch of great quality music videos of allstar artists (this means less riffling through the YouTube detritus).

There are non-music-video offerings, as well from Pitchfork.tv, including this badass stuff:

Exclusive Radiohead performance of Bangers & Mash (btw, Radiohead has released additional tour dates)

Some Man Man madness surrounding the making of his album Rabbit Habits

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The Breeders

How do we love thee, Kim Deal! Let us count the bass lines. The Breeders‘ (Kim and Kelley’s) new album Mountain Battles comes out tomorrow. It’s the best sort of rocker girl jukebox music, and lord knows jukeboxes the world over could use a bit more of that. There are too many girlies and not enough Deals out there. Stream the whole album!

The new disc was produced by Steve Albini using no digital whatnot whatsoever (except on the title track, “which pains me so hard,” says Kim). Read about this recent manifestation of his “All Wave” push here: “This should not be construed as a call to arms, but could become at least as significant as the Ska revival or perhaps the WNBA,” and his 1993 treatise The Problem with Music here.

It’s been six years since the twin sisters’ last album, and can you believe Last Splash was 1993?! For old times’ sake … Check, check; ahh-oooooooo-ah, ahh-oooooooo-ah … watch them play Cannonball on The Jon Stewart Show back when they were touring with Nirvana on its tour for (Albini-produced) In Utero. That performance, that song, those voices … if I would have seen that I would have made some sweeping statement about these being rockers, not women doing rock music, which would necessarily relegate them to the margins … well, read what Kurt Cobain said about The Breeders (and The Pixies, for whom Kim was the bassist).

Back to the new disc. You can watch them screw around on a YouTube video while you listen to the very agreeable song Overglazed and the crystal-clear We’re Gonna Rise. Or download the mp3s of the infectious Bang On and Night of Joy.

Now buy the thing and go see ’em live.

Apr 25 – Coachella – Indio, CA
Apr 28 – Canes – San Diego, CA
Apr 29 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Apr 30 – Slims – San Francisco, CA
May 2 – House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
May 3 – Clubhouse – Tempe, AZ
May 5 – Emos – Austin, TX
May 6 – House of Blues – Dallas, TX
May 7 – Meridian – Houston, TX
May 9 – Bottleneck – Laurence, KS
May 10 – Pops – St. Louis, MO
May 23 – Richards – Vancouver, BC
May 24 – The Gorge – George, WA
May 25 – Berbattis Pan – Portland, OR
May 27 – The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT
May 28 – Ogden – Denver, CO
May 30 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
May 31 – Metropolitan University – Chicago, IL
Jun 1 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
Jun 3 – House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
Jun 4 – Pearl Street – Northampton, MA
Jun 5 – Paradise – Boston, MA
Jun 7 – Toads Place – New Haven, CT
Jun 8 – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
Jun 10 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
Jun 11 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Jun 13 – The Loft – Atlanta, GA

I’m interested to hear what the set list is like, especially since Kelley said, “I’ve never felt excited about bands on tour. I never want to hear more than three new songs, just the old stuff. But this time, I’ve told Kim we should just start off with [1993 hit] ‘Cannonball’ and only play the new album from there.”

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Inappropriate Funeral Songs

Recently a friend told me a funny story about a death in the family. The laughter felt just a tiny bit wrong, but it was exactly right.

AV Club wrote an interesting but silly piece about the top 26 inappropriate songs to play at a funeral, called Don’t Taunt the Reaper. In the spirit of the funny funeral story, I have given this topic some amount of thought. But before we get to my nominees, here’s the best of theirs:

I love #2, Ween‘s Push Th’ Little Daisies. That infectious glue-sniffin’ song gets in your head so bad it makes you want to die. And Queen‘s Another One Bites the Dust is freakin’ classic, of course, as is the Blue Oyster Cult tune to which the article’s title refers. I’m also on board with I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, if we’re attempting the truly tasteless. From the comments section, I like the option of Dress Sexy at My Funeral by Smog.

AV Club also listed a Pixies song, Cactus, and an Eels song, Last Stop: This Town, but I decree they’re the wrong songs from those bands.

My top choice is the Eels‘ It’s a Motherfucker (Being Here Without You). The rest of the lyrics aren’t particularly compelling, but that line and the sound of the song (listen to part of it here) make perfect wake music. Maybe too perfect for the AV Club’s list of inappropriate songs, actually. [To be filed under random awesome quote, E says, “I’m not trying to fuck anyone’s mother here. Let’s just establish that right now.”]

I also nominate Nerf Herder‘s warning to all who consider suicide, 5000 Ways to Die. Lyrics:

“And the bastard you hated the most / Will stand up and give you a toast / He’ll say We were such good friends especially near the end / Then he’ll feel up your girlfriend in front of your ghost.”

The Pixies are an obvious choice. Dead, In Heaven, Wave of Mutilation, Into the White, Monkey Gone to Heaven, Ed is Dead … and there are many that don’t quite make the list like I Bleed or There Goes My Gun … but I have to go with Ed is Dead for the lyrics and mood, combining to be an inappropriate yet apt funeral song. The problem is that any Pixies song (see Dead) that’s about death could just as much be about sex. Or maybe that’s not a problem at all. The Pixies are good like that.

And last but not least, Modest Mouse. They sing about death quite often, with a proper fierceness, insisting that we remember “we are our own damn coffins.” That line is from Satin in a Coffin. Great titles, but not really great lyrics for a funeral, include Bury Me With It or Black Cadillacs. But perhaps the greatest MM song for this project is Parting of the Sensory. Check the lyrics: “Dehydrate back into minerals” and “Some day you will die and Somehow something’s gonna steal your carbon.” And when you listen to the song, wait for the end when it’s swirling you down the drain in manic round after round of intensity.

What are your suggestions? I’m excited to improve this list!

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Kurt Cobain: About A Son

I’ve been geeking out on the soundtrack for Kurt Cobain: About a Son. I can’t speak to the way the songs articulate with the film, because I haven’t seen it, but I have gotten a lot of enjoyment from listening to and thinking about the artists that influenced KC.

Buy the About a Son CD or DVD for reasonable prices. The trailer for the documentary pulls from 25 hours of interview tape done for Michael Azerrad‘s biography Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. (His other book, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, follows Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Beat Happening, The Replacements, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Fugazi, and Mudhoney.)

Azerrad wrote the liner notes to the soundtrack, which contains no Nirvana songs but instead other artists’: “stuff he studied and worshiped and adored … So if watching About a Son is like seeing the world through Kurt’s eyes, then listening to this music is like hearing it through his ears.” I think fans will appreciate the amount of respect this choice shows for them and their ability to do the mental labor of analyzing influences and processing the clips of KC speaking that are sprinkled among the songs.

In particular, I like the inclusion of the Creedence Clearwater Revival cut Up Around the Bend because KC’s first band was a CCR cover band. CCR was logical, in retrospect, according to Azzerad, because it’s “basic, chunky guitar music, easy to play and yet boundlessly resonant, full of simple, catchy melodies and a singer with a voice that sounded like a tuned scream.” Nicely put. And when the CCR is juxtaposed against Put Some Sugar On It by Half Japanese (download), the Nirvana sound emerges around the margins.

Two songs that Nirvana covered are included: the original David Bowie version of The Man Who Sold the World (download) and Son of a Gun by The Vaselines. If you’re interested, Matt Yglesias talks about Nirvana covers of Vaselines songs here.

Of course Mudhoney (download Touch Me I’m Sick) and Lead Belly (The Bourgeois Blues) are on there. But I was unpleasantly surprised to note the absence of The Pixies and The Breeders, who influenced KC mightily. The Pixies’ lyrical ambiguity (for a discussion of that, see the 33 1/3 book for Doolittle) is what lets Nirvana go national; it made the angst malleable to any set of personal circumstances, to anyone who thought that the world and/or themselves were SNAFU central.

My only other complaint is the incongruous cut by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service; his unmistakable voice concludes the CD with the song Indian Summer, and it sort of leaves me lost. I would have liked to see something more assertive or definitive as a closer. He helped compile the songs on the CD, so this track sort of feels like when a first-time film director gives him or herself a cameo.

But, regardless, the thing is worth buying. And in case you aren’t convinced yet, check the list of artists on the soundtrack I didn’t even talk about: R.E.M., The Melvins, Bad Brains, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, Arlo Guthrie, and Iggy Pop. Whew!

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