Ten Songs That Made Me Love...
published: 27 /
In our series in which our writers celebrate ten songs that made them love a favourite band or artist, Fiona Hutchings weaves together love, alt-rock and unsettling subject matter in a tribute to Pixies.
My appreciation of alt-rock, punky, shouty and occasionally crooning outfit Pixies started in late 1999 and, so help me, it happened because of a boy. I wasn't totally unaware of them thanks to my obsession with 'Cannonball' by The Breeders (Kim Deal being a member of both bands), but thanks to several gifted mix-tapes I fell for their off-the-wall brand of shouted, surreal and skilful nailing of life, no matter how strange. The mix-tapes worked, for the record, and Pixies still sound as fresh and current now as they did (whisper it) 34 years ago. Don't worry though, this isn't some dewy-eyed sopfest best confined to a romance novel about how I fell in love with a band or a boy; this my friend is a celebration of moshing, shouting, being very clever and occasionally making violence cool.
'Tame' ('Doolittle', 1989)
I mean, saying this is the first song I ever danced to with the man I would marry is, granted, a bit soppy. But this is hardly a slow, end of the night number. No, this is fast and aggressive except for a break near the end where Black Francis and Kim Deal are either very out of breath from the dancing or something else is going on. Regardless, it also gives your tiring body a brief respite from throwing itself around. The anger at whoever is the one being Tame is delicious, and screaming along at the top of your lungs is always therapeutic.
'Here Comes Your Man' ('Doolittle', 1989)
This one feels like the opposite of my first choice. It's slower, more melodic and the chorus gets lodged in your brain for a different, more gentle reason. As far as I can tell this was a slightly more contentious song. Written by a teenage Black Francis about "winos and hobos travelling on trains who die in the Californian earthquake", it evokes the true calm before the storm. But some felt it was perhaps too commercial, dare I even use the pop word? For the music video Francis and Deal open and close their mouths at the right points while making no attempt to actually move their lips to track their words. The set is festooned with flowers and the colour palette is vivid. If you don't pay attention I guess it could be seen as a song about 'your man' walking towards you. But anyone who listens to Pixies without paying attention deserves to be misdirected.
'Where Is My Mind' ('Surfer Rosa', 1988)
Even before 1999's 'Fight Club' brought the track to a wider audience, I'd caught this enough times on MTV to appreciate it. Plus it was a question I asked myself a lot. James Blunt covered this song in 2004. James Blunt. I'll just leave that thought with you for a moment or two
'Debaser' ('Doolittle', 1989)
Disturbing lyrics about slicing up eyeballs are just one part of this song inspired by the surrealist film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí called 'Un Chien Andalou'. It might have opened the 1989 album 'Doolittle', but it wasn't released as a single until 1997. It's unsettling in sentiment as well as details.
Loudersound quoted lead guitarist Joey Santiago on 'Debaser': “I’ve no idea what he was singing about. And I didn’t want to know either. It was the same throughout 'Doolittle'. I’d catch a word here and there, but it was almost like I was intruding on his privacy. If I’d asked him what it was all about he’d probably tell me to just shut up and play something.”
'Gigantic' '(Surfer Rosa', 1988)
According to Kim Deal, the song was inspired by the film 'Crimes Of The Heart' in which Sissy Spacek (white, adult) shocks her sisters with tales of an affair with a teenage black boy. Sadly, even today a song about interracial relationships might raise a few eyebrows. I'd like to think the power dynamics of the relationship would be the problematic point, but I digress.
This one is voyeuristic , one woman observing a well-endowed black man making love to another woman. Honestly? When I first heard it? I thought it was about love being huge (see start of article) and possibly love for me being huge for a specific person (see also start of the article).
'Monkey Gone To Heaven' ('Doolittle', 1989)
Numerology, a song about the environment, how Man is destroying the planet's natural resources? How very 2020, despite being recorded 31 years ago. Maybe the monkey is humanity and heaven is where we go once the planet finally dies? None of the songs I have chosen have ever dated for me, this one most of all.
'Broken Face' ('Surfer Rosa', 1988)
As per my last choice, the start of this song always makes me smile - and it is in part an examination of mutilation and incest. The... confusing relationships it produces and maybe congenital birth defects that result from it. All wrapped up in a cheerful-sounding hook-filled song.
'Wave Of Mutilation' ('Doolittle', 1989)
Ben Sisario's 33 1/3 book on 'Doolittle' quotes Black Francis describing 'Wave' as being about "Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they'd failed in business, and they're driving off a pier into the ocean." You cannot accuse Pixies of using the same base material for every album, never mind every song. The chorus gets stuck in your head, sometimes I sing along cheerfully because I forget what I'm actually saying.
'Oh My Golly!' ('Surfer Rosa', 1988)
It's another 'gets stuck in your head' refrain but there's loads of them, so I chose this for a couple of different reasons. Producer Steve Albini wanted to capture studio banter during the recording of 'Surfer Rosa'. For my money, the best example of this is on 'Oh My Golly'. As Deal was leaving the studio to smoke a cigarette, she exclaimed "If anybody touches my stuff, I'll kill ya." Francis replied "I'll kill you, you fucking die, if anybody touches my stuff."
I am very aware I have pulled nearly all ten songs from just two albums but what can I say, to me they are the best two. It seems fitting to end with a track from which the 'Surfer Rosa' album title came. It's the lyric "Besando chichando con surfer rosa", which roughly translates to "Kissing Chicha with Surfer Rosa".
'Caribou' ('Come On Pilgrim', 1987)
The opening track on the debut mini EP, the song that sort of introduced Pixies to the world. Saving the first for last. I just love the way the crooning gives way to distorted screaming. I love the way a cursory search of the internet unearths so many varied fan theories as to what they really meant and how they meant it. This song I've seen linked to Kurt Cobain for example. After all, he did say that 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was his attempt to write a song in the style of Pixies. It's as good a theory as any other. Kurt Cobain was his own kind of genius, as are Pixies.