The New Deal

/author enters, stage right

/author walks to podium, coughs once, blinks in the unfamiliar light

Ladies and gentlemen, so wonderful to see you all here today.

I have an announcement to make.

/author coughs, again

Kim Deal has left The Pixies and they’ve released a new song and it sounds like The Fall meets a Pixies tribute band and they are doing some shows in London and…

/author pauses

That is all. Thank you for your time. I shall return.

/author exits, stage left

Music From The Pixies Is Available Here

Doolittle, Doolive

This whole “Doing A Whole Album From 20 Years Ago Live” thing is a curious matter. When bands like Teenage Fanclub do “Bandwagonesque” and Tindersticks play “Second Album”, it’s really nice, because you’ve kind of forgotten about them, and it’s lovely to be reminded afresh about what great bands they are. But the Pixies did the whole reunion thing five years ago. And that was a fantastic, angry, furious, joyful reunion, the audience’s rapture at the sheer inconcievability of the whole event absorbed by the band and reciprocated hundredfold in superb performances.

So this feels odd, especially as we’re back to the Brixton Academy again, scene of their great triumph back in 2004. “Doolittle” is possibly rock’s finest hour, a pure distillation of strangeness and sex and lust and religion and monkeys and Spanish surrealism and Biblical fury and environmentalism, all wrapped up with screaming and yelling and dischords and songs with so many hooks you could hang a whole bunch of coats on. But there’s a touch of redundancy about the whole thing, especially when the night kicks off with a bunch of B-sides.

The Most Redundant Set List Ever

The Most Redundant Set List Ever

The Pixies were never a B-sides band. Some, like New Order, hid their best songs away on B-sides and obscure releases on tiny Belgian record labels staffed solely by beer-quaffing nuns. But The Pixies released two astonishing records, and frankly you just need “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle”, and find “Isla de Encanta”, “Caribou” and “Cecilia Ann/Rock Music” somewhere. That’s pretty much it. The B-sides are pretty much entirely redundant. Buy the new, limited edition extended “Doolittle” with the B-sides, say the adverts at the start. No thanks, say the crowd.

Then, Kim starts that bassline, the lights drop out, and “Debaser” precipitates a frenzy. Everyone goes mad. Then comes “Tame”, one of their fiercest and most deranged songs, and everyone goes mad again. So it goes.

Hearing “Doolittle” song by song, you are struck by how much variety their songs feature. Even when they try to be poppy, in a Velvet Underground meets Beach Boys of “Here Comes Your Man” (featuring a great video of the band nodding their heads in approval), it comes across as pretty weird. The weirder songs are weirder still. “Mr Grieves” is still so bloody odd. “Tame”, “I Bleed” and “Gouge Away” still have such bewildering power twenty years on that your are left feeling breathless (aside from the huge crush at the front).

At the end of “Gouge Away”, the band bow and jape and joke at the front, with the display behind showing a video of the band bowing, japing and joking, soaking up some of the loudest cheering I’ve ever heard at a gig. And the first encore, ending with “Into The White”, feels a bit tacked on. But the second encore starts with “Isla De Encanta” and then jumps straight into “Broken Face”, whereupon every single person in the place goes utterly mad, yet again. Frank “Black” Black “Francis” actually looks, for the first time, like he’s enjoying it up there. Then it’s “Where Is My Mind”, and the night is over.

You know, I never thought I would say this, but I’m starting to wonder if they should give touring a rest for a bit. I mean, it’s wonderful to see them but some of the joy seems to have seeped out of Black “Francis” Frank “Black”. Ok, he wasn’t exactly a particularly cheery soul to start off with, but there’s a definite feel of him going through the motions. You know, calling this the “We Never Made Any Fucking Money From Doolittle So Give Us Some Now Tour” might be more appropriate, and who can begrudge them getting some belated glory? Lord only knows they deserve it, what with totally reinventing rock music and all.

So, maybe they need a break. But then again, who cares? They are still one of the best live acts out there, and show up bands twenty years their junior with ability to just sound so damned good. Much better than the Ally Pally shows from a few years ago, but sadly not quite touching the heights of their reunion shows.

And they are still the best band in the world to see a fat, bald middle-aged man screaming at the top of his lungs. Frank, Joey, Kim and Dave, we salute you.

MP3: I Bleed (live) by The Pixies

MP3: Gouge Away (live) by The Pixies

MP3: Hey (live) by The Pixies

MP3: Silver (live) by The Pixies

MP3: Tame (live) by The Pixies

MP3: Broken Face by The Pixies (Live)

Buy “Doolittle” (CD/MP3)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon

The Les Paul Special

Les Paul, the man who did so much to build and develop the solid-body electric guitar, died Thursday at the age of 94. Famously giving helping design the Gibson Les Paul, his name is as synonymous with the electric guitar as Leo Fender. The thick, heavy sound his guitar made when being pumped through a Marshall stack is the sound of pretty much every RAWK record you’ve ever heard (or at least, until ‘80’s poodle rock came along). And if you want to hear loads of those songs, you’ve come to the wrong place.

There's Only Two Les Pauls

There's Only Two Les Pauls

Sorry, that was a bit abrupt. But I’m not a huge RAWK fan. Whilst I’m always partial to a bit of Led Zep or Guns’N’Roses, my thing’s always been at the more esoteric end of the rock spectrum. So, when I heard the news of Les Paul passing away, my thoughts didn’t go to Slash, they went to The Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, and Low.

Yes, Low.

Because Low, one of the quietest bands ever to grace this fair earth, play Les Pauls (or rather, Alan Sparhawk does). Seeing them live some years ago, they came on and started playing “When I Go Deaf”. As they suddenly kicked off into the loud part, Alan started sawing and pulling at his Bigsby-rigged Les Paul for all it was worth, and carried on even after the drummer and bassist had stopped playing. A fantastic moment.

Alan, A Les Paul, and a Bigsby

Alan, A Les Paul, and a Bigsby

For a band whose whole ethos is pretty much the negative image of the Les Paul-toting rock gods, it’s a great trick to use the same instrument to create slow, (mostly) quiet beauty, as they had used to play songs like Kashmir.

It’s the same with The Pixies. Although Black Francis used a Fender Tele (with the occasional Strat), Joey Santiago was a Les Paul man. And it was unlikely that such a truly unique sound had ever been made before Joey strapped on his plank. I can still remember hearing “Bone Machine” on John Peel one night, back in 1988. Sounding like nothing I’d ever heard, the lead guitar was discordant and twisted, screaming in unison with Black Francis.

Joey, A Les Paul, and a Bigsby

Joey, A Les Paul, and a Bigsby

And more was to come, with Doolittle taking Surfer Rosa’s twisted goodness and adding a huge hit of pop nous.

Mmmm, a gold Les Paul.

Last off, The Manic Street Preachers exploded out of Blackwood, South Wales in the early ’90’s. Can’t say I was a massive fan of them at first, what with me not liking The Clash and all that, but eventually James Dean Bradfield’s fantastic singing and playing, and their great way with a tune, won me over.

James, A Les Paul, and No Bigsby

James, A Les Paul, and No Bigsby

They always said they wanted to sound like Guns’N’Roses, and on “Motorcycle Emptiness”, they sound like what Guns’N’Roses would have been if Slash had spent his childhood listening to Nick Drake.

So, three bands all using Les Pauls in ways that probably made Les Paul himself come out in a rash. Rest in peace, Les, and thanks for making music so much better.

MP3: When I Go Deaf by Low

MP3: Bone Machine by The Pixies

MP3: Motorcycle Emptiness by Manic Street Preachers

Buy Low’s “The Great Destroyer” (CD/MP3)

Buy The Pixies “Surfer Rosa & Come on Pilgrim” (CD) (What, you haven’t got this already?)

Buy Manic Street Preachers “Forever Delayed: The Greatest Hits” (CD)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon

More Live Shows – Pixies and Flaming Lips

“The Server is busy. Please try again later”
“We are currently experiencing excessive demand. Please hit refresh in 30 seconds”
“You are being held in a queue. Please do not navigate away from this screen or you will lose your place in the queue”
“Our servers are currently busy dealing with our friends the ticket touts, who get extra-special priority purchases so they can then re-sell the tickets back through our re-sale partners at five times the face value, so we make money twice. Bonus!”

Ah, the joys of buying tickets online. Last Friday at 9am, tickets for Flaming Lips and more importantly, The Pixies Playing Doolittle went on sale, as well as a bunch of other bands. Why do promoters decide to all release tickets at the same time, so you end up spending half an hour a sweaty, nervous wreck trying to get tickets to see two of the most exciting, thrilling, revolutionary and downright fantastic bands of the last few decades? One put on a live show filled with the spectacle of the lead singer in a huge inflatable rubber ball, fireworks, people dressed as animals, all sorts of stuff; and the other are a spectacle just because they are there.

For seeing The Pixies live is still a huge event. They turned up in the late ’80’s, blew us away, then self-immolated amongst rancour and confusion. I only saw them live for a few songs back in 1990 at the Reading Festival, before the girl I was seeing at the time had to be rushed back to London as she’d eaten some dodgy food earlier in the day. “I’ll take you to see them next time they tour” she said. They never came back. *sniff* Thanks Charlotte.

So seeing them, live at the Brixton Academy on their first reunion tour was as close to a religious experience as I’ll probably ever get. And I’d reckon that most of the 30- to 40- something crowd would agree. There was a five or six song section where they went through their Spanish numbers, and it was furious and frenetic and damned angry, and probably the best live experience I’ve ever had.

Going back to the Brixton Academy to see them play one of the best albums ever is just the bestest thing ever, if you ask me. Which you haven’t, but as you’re here reading this, I guess you’ve got some interest in them too. Am I right, or what?

And then it’s The Flaming Lips. Another fantastic band, if not quite as influential. But also capable of being utterly transcendent live. I’ve seen them before too, and having had the pleasure of meeting the band (in Dallas airport of all places), I can happily say that they are gentlemen of the highest order, and Wayne Coyne is like the best mad uncle you never had.

There are all sorts of YouTube videos of them doing their stuff live, so it’s hard to pick just one. Here’s a good one from the crowd that shows a little of what they are like:

Please, please go and watch loads more, and if you haven’t seen them live, do. And if you have, go and see them again. Oh here’s another one.

So here’s two songs. First off is Mr Grieves, because it’s just so representative of what The Pixies do best. About four styles of song, hugely ominous lyrics “You can cry, you can mope/But can you swing from a good rope?”, and the fact it’s sheer brilliance. And not bloody Monkey goes to Bloody Heaven.

And secondly, Flaming Lips’s “Do You Realize???” really shouldn’t need any introduction. We played it at our wedding, you know. Wonderful song, wonderful band.

MP3: Mr. Grieves by The Pixies

MP3: Do You Realize??? by Flaming Lips

Buy “Doolittle”. Buy it. Buy it. BUY IT!!!

Buy Flaming Lips “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (CD)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon