Reviews

Pixies: The Pixies - Club Date: Live at the Paradise in Boston [DVD]

This DVD provides two glimpses of Pixies: the kindler, gentler manifestation, and that kinder, gentler manifestation's rough estimate of past incarnations now distanced by time, age, forgotten roles, and so-called "retirement".


Pixies

The Pixies - Club Date: Live at the Paradise in Boston

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Eagle Vision USA
US Release Date: 2006-10-03
Amazon
iTunes

In the wacky world of arts and leisure, "retirement" is often just another word for "indefinite period of self-imposed silence during which an audience saves a special corner of its wallet for an inevitable, Jesus-esque homecoming". You know, kinda like the period between the final song and the encore at a rock concert, only with prolonged, hopeless years piled up in between. This explains why particular "retirements" come across as transparent publicity stunts; after all, who didn't expect Jay-Z, the Roger Clemens of hip-hop, to tire of lounging on sun-soaked yachts?

Pixies, arguably Boston's most influential rock band from the late '80s / early '90s (next to Mission of Burma, perhaps), weren't just living the proverbial retired life -- they were dead. At least that's what the T-shirts and posters promoting the band's final slogan had us believe: DEATH TO THE PIXIES read their loveless goodbye. They served the noblest of indie-rock lives -- coined an iconic brand of dissonant "alternative" rock with tugging dynamics, had a near-hit with a pretty little out-of-character pop song ("Here Comes Your Man"), saw said iconic formula shamelessly co-opted by a band (Nirvana) that became impossibly famous, and, throughout it all, never compromised their poker-faced weirdness -- only to die just as profoundly as they had lived.

The relationship between singer / screamer / songwriter Black Francis and bassist / singer / rock-geek fantasy girl Kim Deal had become so tempestuous that, post-break-up, the subject of the band became one to avoid: Francis would dodge reporters' Pixies-related questions, while Deal would simply hang up the phone. Francis reversed his fake name to make another fake name, Frank Black, and pursued slightly pleasanter power pop; Deal formed the Breeders, whose 1993 hit "Cannonball" charted higher than any Pixies song ever did; drummer David Lovering became a magician, as many drummers do; and no one knows what happened to guitarist Joey Santiago, but he was reachable when it came time for that fated reunion.

In the ensuing commercial wake of Pixies' surprising and successful 2004 reunion tour comes the DVD Live at the Paradise in Boston, which documents a show the band performed that year at the titular club in the city of its origin. While it is yet another entry in a rash of recently released Pixies concert DVDs (The Pixies Sell Out, Acoustic: Live in Newport, the upcoming loudQUIETloud documentary) that capitalize on the reunion's endless buzz, Live at the Paradise benefits from its nostalgic angle (band plays for rabid hometown crowd), intimate / unique setting (200 lucky fans crammed into a tiny rock club, the size of which is a fraction of what the band now commands), and anything-goes atmosphere.

The latter is an apt description of the show itself, which opens not with an expected one-two bomb of ruthless disharmony like "Bone Machine" or "Debaser", but with the sweet and playful "La La Love You" and a requested cover of Neil Young's hazy "Winterlong". Moderate b-sides like "Into the White" and "In Heaven" follow closely behind, long before the real aural bloodletting begins. After these initial curveballs in the set list, a bit of predictability sets in: yes, "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Where Is My Mind" are featured, as are a majority of Doolittle's and Surfer Rosa's tracks. (Their prickly swan song, Trompe le Monde, is noticeably underrepresented, and only one song ["Alison"] is drawn from their surf-rock-on-Mars masterpiece Bossanova.)

Maybe it's age or maybe it's just the hurdle of re-learning forgotten roles, but it takes the band a little while to reach its abstract plane of whacked-out wickedness. On a thrasher like "Something Against You", they seem to be delivering the thunder rather than really channeling it; by the time the convulsive "Crackity Jones" is tackled, however, everyone's warmed up and back in their old molds: Lovering plows ahead at full-steam, Santiago stands motionless like a deer in the headlights, Deal offers plentiful smiles of defiance between requisite smoke breaks. Black eventually gives in to his possessed, tongues-speaking alter ego, which he appears unable to hold back after so long -- not even a pair of respectable glasses can repress the primordial voice that his eerie songs summon.

When the band finishes its set, throwing sweaty arms around the bipolar closer "Caribou", we've been given two glimpses of Pixies: the kindler, gentler manifestation, and that kinder, gentler manifestation's rough estimate of past incarnations now distanced by time, age, forgotten roles, and so-called "retirement". If that's a reasonable delivery of the best we can expect, it'll have to do.

* * *

As an added bonus, Live at the Paradise contains newly discovered footage from a 1986 show at the even smaller T.T. the Bear's club in nearby Cambridge, billed as one of the band's first live appearances. The home video is crudely shot and blurry at times, but it manages to convey a solid picture of Pixies at their onset, rampaging through early material like "Ed Is Dead" and "The Holiday Song". Seeing Black wield and batter an acoustic guitar, both in 1986 and 2004, is a reminder of the instrument's once-crucial role in provocative and punk-descended rock music, not to mention its routine and ridiculous banishment from the realm of "loud" music.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image