Pixies Introduce U.S. to First New Bassist in 10 years

Pixies kicked off their North American tour last week in South Carolina with an audience friendly set of familiar favorites from their groundbreaking albums of the late-'80s and '90s.

Fresh off the heels of a European Tour where they played both 1990's Bossanova and 1991'sTrompe le Monde in their entirety, the quartet from Boston seem to be happy giving the Americans more of a greatest hits show.

Which is perfectly ok with America, if I may speak for the nation.

Poster by Martin Ander

While it's true I just praised Pearl Jam for digging deep into its new album and leaving a few fan favorites on the bench, Pixies do not have a best-selling collection of fresh material to support, so why not just give the people what they want: the music they either grew up with or heartily embraced when they were in college.

And no disrespect to the Seattle grunge rockers, but what the Pixies did over their first five releases was unreal. Especially looking back at it now and hearing how well those songs from Surfer Rosa to Trompe hold up today.

Of those 23 songs in their set, more than half of which came from Doolittle and Bossanova, one would assume at least 15 would be instantly recognizable to even the most casual of Pixies attendees.

That's remarkable.

What's even more incredible is how many other great tunes they left on the bench opening night they just didn't have time for. Hits like "Motorway to Roswell," "Allison," and "Isla de Encanta."

Have no fear, they included those songs in later shows, but still. Imagine having those many bangers at the ready without ever having to play anything brand new.

One song they've curiously left out of their set since December 2022 is "Gigantic."

Yes, we know we think about original bassist Kim Deal when we hear that one. But it's a big, big love. Plus Kim has been gone for so long, many in attendance at these shows may not even realize that after Kim was replaced with Kim Shattuck and then Pax Lenchantin, that after a decade of change the band has a new bassist this year in Emma Richardson formerly of Band of Skulls.

Earlier this year Paz, who also played in Zwan (Billy Corgan's side project with Jimmy Chamberlain and others in between Smashing Pumpkins albums), emailed Rolling Stone with the shocking announcement she'd been let go after such a long run.

“It has been a dream of dreams these past 10 years to have been accepted as a Pixie by the band and by fans and an honor to have contributed to the Pixies legacy," the musician wrote.

Pax singing the parts of Gigantic first made famous by Kim Deal.

"My departure is a bit of a surprise to me as it is to many, but it looks like they have a solid plan figured out which in turn has pushed me to move onwards onto new projects that I am excited about,” she wrote, optimistically.

So why hasn't "Gigantic" gotten back into the set? Is the problem Emma can't sing?

Not one bit. She sings divinely.

So it's got to be the band. More specifically, Black Francis (or Frank Black, whatever he answers to today). He's clearly the leader of the band so if he doesn't wanna do those high notes to kick it off, or if it reminds him of Kim, and he doesn't want it in there, then it's not in there.

And as it has already been established, they have plenty of songs to please the crowd with.

Plus if you miss it that much, go see the Breeders, Kim's band she formed way back in the day, and they do "Gigantic" almost every night.

It's hard not to think of the early days of the Pixies without thinking of Steve Albini who produced, I mean, recorded Surfer Rosa. which contained the song the band closed with opening night, "Where Is My Mind?"

A while back Francis and Albini talked to The Guardian about how that tune was made.

"We had a laissez-faire attitude, like, 'Oh here’s this idea that is completely unrealised and it goes like this …' It wasn’t that we didn’t care – maybe we were just on fire at the time," the guitarist and singer said.

"Steve’s approach was more cavalier than thoughtful, it was just: 'Let’s fucking try that.' But I think his attitude worked because it blended well with the naivety of the band. We didn’t know what we were doing but we did it well. There’s something about the major to minor chord shift in the song that resonates along with the universal sentiment of the title. Sonically, if you had to pick a song to sum up our band this would be it. It’s emblematic of what we do with that loud/quiet dynamic," he explained.

Steve, who could be very coarse about bands was generous in this memory.

"The band played well and my job was pretty easy. There were parts of the song that needed a dynamic blow-up where things would get heavier but the band were playing through really small amps," Albini, who died last month, said in the 2020 Guardian interview.

"I suggested some Marshall amps for the big loud parts – they took to that like a fish to water. I don’t know if that was the first time they ever played with really powerful amps but they certainly made the most of them," he continued.

"I did stuff on that album I probably had to talk them into," Albini said of making Surfer Rosa. Something he stopped doing as he matured as an engineer.

"The studio was limited – one performing room – so we used the big communal washroom. That became a reverb chamber where Kim Deal did her ghostly hoo-hoo backing vocals. Her voice has a really lovely sustain to it and I exaggerated that using a long electronic reverb to make it a structural element of the song as opposed to just decoration," he said.

This Pixies / Modest Mouse / Cat Power tour will be going around North America all of June before heading back to Europe in July.

Get your tickets from the Pixies website.

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Last updated: 23 Jul 2024, 05:44 Etc/UTC