This is listed here as a 'live' album. This should be clarified for potential buyers: this is not the 'live' album you are hoping/looking for. This is a collection of songs by the Pixies recorded at BBC Studios in the UK over the course of several years. Yes, the tracks appear to have been recorded live (most likely in one take), but otherwise any resemblance to a live album ends there. And besides, nowhere on the cd does ever use the actual word 'Live'. With that clarified, let's move on.
While some Pixies fans balk at this album, I actually find it to be pretty essential-easily up there with their collection of B-Sides, and in my opinion, up there with Bossanova (their weakest album). Pixies at the BBC offers a view of the band that cuts to the bone: no studio gimmicks, up front vocals, solid mixing of the rhythm section, and an incredible spread of songs from every album (minus Surfer Rosa), plus 2 outstanding covers (of The Beatles and David Lynch, no less-Pixies were the masters at choosing the best cover material ever).
Many songs here are somewhat stripped down (possibly causing much of the fuss with hardcore Pixies fans) here. 'Is She Weird' for example dispenses with any lead guitar, providing the song with even more immediacy. 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' seems more primal performed without the string section. 'Manta Ray', always a personal favorite of mine (an outtake from Doolittle), shines so pristine here, it's too bad they didn't squeeze it onto Doolittle. And 'There Goes My Gun' tears out of the speakers like a rocket-seeming more like a companion song to 'River Euphrates' and 'Something Against You' from Surfer Rosa than anything off Doolittle. It's actually quite interesting to see how the band's sound was shaped in the studio to a large degree.
My favorite song here, though, has to be '(In Heaven)'. A fan of surreal cinema (also check the lyrics to Debaser), Frank/Black/Francis loved Eraserhead, and so, the Pixies covered this song penned by David Lynch. It's so utterly raw, terrifying, and simple, that for me, it's one of the band's defining moments. And the shock of feedback/guitar hitting the floor at the end perfectly finishes it all off.
Certainly this is not a typical Pixies 'album', and it is far from perfect (no Surfer Rosa tracks-come on!!!), yet somehow, as much as any other Pixies release (with the exception of the truly live 2nd disc from the Death to the Pixies compilation-an absolutely stunning testament to the greatness of this band), Pixies at the BBC captures their essence: exciting, raw, odd, adventurous, funny, and, yes, cool.
While it's no Surfer Rosa or Doolittle (I mean, come on, what is?!)-this is as good of a place as any to discover the most exciting and creative rock band to emerge since the 1960's.