Pixies at the BBC (1998) Best of, Live
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Pixies at the BBC (1998) - Originally released in 1998, this collection documents the Pixies at their most surreal, scary, dissonant and powerful. Recorded live-on-the-air between 1988 and 1991, this disc is a wonderful complement to any of the Pixies catalogue albums.
Released shortly after the Pixies' legacy had been reappraised with the Death To The Pixies boxset, Pixies At The BBC offers a number of alternative takes and a few rarities culled from radio sessions between 1988 and 1991. Most interesting are the rarities: a potent cover version of The Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" is brief, but bruising, and a take on "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)" drawn from the score to David Lynch's horrific dystopia Eraserhead gives Black Francis a chance to howl like seldom before. Other than these, there's few superior takes of songs, but there's a lovely acoustic reading of "Wave Of Mutilation", and the obligatory Great Lost B-side in "Manta Ray". Get the albums first, though. --Louis Pattison
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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.
Thinking to myself: "Hey, where's Bjork? I do not hear anything that sounds like "Vitamin" or "Hit," huh? Oh, but I like this...really. It kind of reminds me of early Nirvana and I dig the lead singer's sonance."
The next day, I listened again. As a direct result of my subconscious, this CD leapt onto my top shelf.
The Pixies were Black Francis (lead vocals), Kim Deal (background vocals and bass), Joey Santiago (lead guitar) and David Lovering (drums). Pixies At The BBC balanced insanity-riddled chants, harmony, an unorthodox structure and dark balladry. Moods shifted from insane, slaphappy, bittersweet, intense and desperate.
Schizophrenia highlighted the tones of Black Francis' delivery and lyrical contributions. His primal personality was reflected with the dementia that poured from his vocal chords in the demonized cover of the Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" and "Is She Weird's" progressive deliriousness. Teetering within his periphery were the tones of cryptic melancholy ("Wave of Mutilation"), teenage giddiness ("Down to the Well" and "Hey" respectively) and many others. Although Black Francis' multiple temperaments frequently contributed, "they" were not the only notable contributors to the Pixies' oeuvre.
A combination of the elements from each and/or all of band member's talents glossed every song. Whether it was Deal's harmonies and templates ("Levitate Me" and "Down to the Well"), Lovering's savage pounding ("Dead") and/or Santiago's blustery riff and lick work (entire album), they concertedly championed the Pixies significance. Unfortunately, Francis' solo vision and ego collided with Kim's ever-growing need to be heard and the band (err...Francis) called it quits a decade ago.
Although it is considered a 'live' recording, these BBC sessions did not sound especially unique to the studio versions because they were without audience noise and only "Wave Of Mutilation" was arranged noticeably different. For completists, the "Wave" arrangement, Beatles cover (not on any other official release), raw energy of the songs included and odd yet effective sequencing make this very worthwhile. Pixies At The BBC includes 15 songs that display both recording and track selection excellence, so it's total duration of only 35:23 should not deter any.
My Pixies mistake turned into my richest CD 'find' and I have purchased all of their officially registered and many of their bootleg CDs since. The Pixies now rank as my third favorite musical artist/band (behind only Elvis and Bob Dylan). Collectively, the songs compiled here generally encapsulate the qualities of their brief, but rich recording career (1988-1991). There is no chronological listing of the tracks, thematic or any other recognizable order to them, but somehow (much like the band) they play accomplished "AS IS". Listen to Pixies At The BBC if you want to hear the sound that the White Stripes and Nirvana looted.