Tuesday 21 November 2017

rock

Ed Power

Ed Power

pixies

olympia, dublin

The spiralling queue outside the gents' toilet provides a telling snapshot. Grizzled guys from their mid 30s onwards are in the distinct majority as protean alternative rockers Pixies return, bringing with them an air of scowling impenetrability and a catalogue of short, sharp indie pop classics.

Never the prettiest of performers, in late(ish) middle age, singer Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer Dave Lovering possess the careworn aspect of men who have spent too much of their lives on the road (original bassist Kim Deal left over the summer, replaced by the strutting Kim Shattuck, for whom the epithet 'effortless cool' might have been minted).

Their music, thankfully, has aged much more elegantly. The contrast with their reunion shows in the early 2000s, when Francis, especially, often appeared bored on stage is vivid. A study in anti-rockstar gruffness, the frontman doesn't quite venture a smile – what a shattering of the fourth wall that would be – but is visibly engaged , shrieking and snarling in the manner of someone recently reacquainted with their raging inner self.

With just five original albums (including an eight-track EP), through the late 80s and early 90s the Pixies evolved at a frightening speed, shedding their creative skin so often it was sometimes difficult to keep up. From their early incarnation as lo-fi outlaws, they disinter glittering moshpit lullaby Holiday Song and the feral I've Been Tired, a liquid metal dirge that, depending on your reading, is either about a bad date or a devastating mental collapse.

Some of the loudest cheers are for the band's most disposable hits. Played to death at student discos, who today can endure the far-too-jaunty 'Here Comes Your Man' without repressing a wince? 'Debaser', for its part, sounds like Nirvana with all the anger and loathing – in short the qualities that made Nirvana Nirvana – extracted.

However, these are mere speed bumps and Pixies are soon at full throttle again. Showcasing Santiago's cathartic guitar style, 'Gouge Away' has the slow-build menace of a thunderstorm on the horizon while 'Subbacultcha', a channelling of Francis' obsessions with UFOs, 50s low-culture and surf pop, goes of like a cluster-bomb of average-dude apoplexy.

They finish with 'Planet Of Sound', an indie rock cavalry charge that deserved to be a hit on its release but had the bad luck to arrive just as grunge was breaking big and Pixies were being eclipsed by younger, more stylish rivals. Two and a half decades on, it burns as brightly and furiously as ever.

Irish Independent

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