Wednesday 19 December 2018

A gigantic influence on pop music

Here comes the band (to Dublin) whose sound Kurt Cobain openly admitted he ripped off, writes an excited Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Kurt Cobain was always too honest for his own good. He decided to kill himself rather than turn into a bit of rock star whore/ indie fake with trillions in the bank.

He was also too honest in admitting that Nirvana's primal quiet-verse/ loud-chorus formulae was a rip-off of Boston guitar legends, The Pixies. Take Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit as exhibit A.

In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain said: "I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band -- or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."

Back in December 2004, The New York Times wrote that after more than ten years apart, "the members reunite, only to find that fans (and, if anyone cares, pop critics) love them more than ever. There are sold-out shows, glowing profiles, ecstatic fans".

Five years on, The Pixies have reunited again and fans and critics alike love them more than ever, especially in Ireland where next week Black Francis (aka Charles Thompson IV), Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering play three sold-out shows at The Olympia in Dublin. Devotees of screaming singers and screaming guitars, quiet verse/loud chorus songwriting combined with obtuse, shrieking yet singularly singalongable lyrics (Monkey Gone To Heaven and Here Comes Your Man) will be well served.

Their 1989 LP Doolittle is a classic that no Rathmines bedsit was complete without. Bono and The Edge certainly heard it and liked it as did any number of bands from that era that The Pixies inspired (Radiohead's Thom Yorke said that when he was at school The Pixies "changed my life").

Bossanova in 1990 and Trompe le Monde in 1991 are also well worth a listen. Their music was more influential than unit-shifting. "I've heard it said about The Velvet Underground that while not a lot of people bought their albums," Gary Smith, the production brains behind The Pixies' first recording, Come On Pilgrim, said, "everyone who did started a band. I think this is largely true about The Pixies as well. Charles' secret weapon turned out to be not so secret and, sooner or later, all sorts of bands were exploiting the same strategy of wide dynamics. It became a kind of new pop formula and, within a short while, Smells Like Teen Spirit was charging up the charts and even the members of Nirvana said later that it sounded for all the world like a Pixies song." It still does.

Asked recently was there any chance the world would hear any new Pixie music, Francis replied quixotically: "Oh my God. That is the question on every interviewer's lips. The hell if I know. You know what would get us into the studio? If Quentin Tarantino would direct a movie and let us do the music and as a little extra carrot for us, maybe a little cameo. We've already got ideas man. We want to go to Cannes, man!" Either way, The Pixies's legacy remain there for all to hear.

The Pixies play The Olympia in Dublin on 30 September, October 1 and 2.

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