Pixies (1989) 

Doolittle obliterated the final frontiers of acceptable influences in lyrics and music – kitsch, pulp, smut and dada were now fair game, and though they had been explored before, there was never this much devotion to the topics and developing such a dark, odd aesthetic. Pixies leader Black Francis (actual name Charles Thompson) brought a very niche and nerdy mindset into the indie rock world, which influenced hundreds of bands to come.

For every blast of squealing feedback or awkwardly tricky drumbeat, there’s a moment of levity: a singalong chorus, a poppy guitar riff, strangely awesome harmonies between Francis and bassist Kim Deal, etc. This duality set a standard for future “pop” music: things should be rougher and more difficult, but by no means should the thread be completely lost. For some reason, the Pixies always get credited with inventing soft-to-loud dynamics in songs, even though that tactic had existed for decades. I think it’s because people subconsciously understand what they really pioneered: the idea that the grotesque could go hand-in-hand with the beautiful, like Black Francis’ terrified braying with Kim’s angelic alto.

The band demonstrated the true irreverence of underground music, throwing together Spanish flamenco, surf rock, hardcore, sexual grunting, goth melodies, high drama piano opera, silly reggae, pretty harmonies and all kinds of other detritus with reckless abandon. It’s one of the peaks of nonsense as art, and represents the perverse, obscure, “difficult” trend independent music started to take, venturing to sometimes-annoying, frequently esoteric extremes of sound, image and form. This is by far the most tasteful, creative and easygoing LP of that discipline; the most normal “weird” album, if you will. It’s a postmodern pastiche that twists old styles and ideas into something new and exciting. And it gets this all done in 39 minutes. The Pixies were not known for wasting time.

Key track: “Debaser”

See also: Surfer Rosa – Pixies (1988), Bossanova – Pixies (1990), Trompe Le Monde – Pixies (1991)

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