Tuesday, November 30, 2004
From the Desk of Mr. Sheena Easton, Pt.IV
Another communique from my nemesis and friend, the scat laureate of the Pixies reunion, Mr. Sheena Easton.
24hr Fuck Le Monde:
The Pixies In Montreal
by Mr. Sheena Easton
Is the Pixies reunion a minor hoax? I mean, it happened. It truly took place. And live, they rocked hard and they rocked loud. But there was something about Black's smile—something that said he wasn't really there. That he had fooled everybody at each of their hundred-strong stops over the past 6 months and longer—but only fooled at one of those strange non-Euclidean angles—as if to say, yes we reunited and you got to hear "Head On" live—yes, it was all you hoped it would be—but, tee-hee...
"We're not as 'here' as you'd like us to be. We're more like Christopher Reeves in that Superbowl commercial or Christopher Lee fighting Yoda—more like our heads are grafted on the bodies of some incredible Pixies cover band—college students more willing and able than us to resurrect 'Break My Body' and 'UMASS' within a hair's breadth on the set list."
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me clear the branches from this already shadowy path—so that no one (else) gets hurt while reliving a concert that never should have happened in the first place...
The Pixies played the CEPSUM in Montreal this past Saturday night. The arena, a lop-sided hockey rink, was packed with pot-smoking French-Canuck tarts and bewildered Americans. There were a few pure-blooded Canadians there—those Canadian-Aryans of the Rick Moranis variety—but they were just caught in the middle. Freaks are the dominant species in Montreal; John Hughes-rules are castrated and inversed in Quebec province. Instead of jock, prude, geek, freak, and Judd Nelson, you get pot-chimney, shaggy-lascivious boy, shaggy-lascivious girl, and stripper. The strippers are the aristocracy, btw. They eat souls and sop up the leftover cash. But a sweet-smelling substance drips from their psychic proboscis (it declinates erotic oblivion), so nobody feels a thing.
I could write much on that city and its primary export (other than crepes)—but there's a more pressing issue here: Joey Santiago. Standing in the corner of the stage like the single shy Spaniard in a Connecticut high school full of blonde Caucasian pricks. Intent on getting every note right on his sweaty guitar. Wincing whenever Black glanced his way. There's a dark dynamic at the heart of the Pixies, scarier than the atmosphere that Surfer Rosa evokes. And it all comes down to whether or not Santiago himself wrote those leads himself or Black Francis often held a gun to his khaki skin while writing in their practice space. It's such a distinct sound, and it never really chased Black into his solo work, nor Kim Deal into her Breeders. Black had his voice and acoustic guitar, Kim had her voice and bass. Did Joey Santiago invent the alternative-rock wheel with those leads? It's that sound that was truly incredible and beautiful, expressing some archetype of maimed elation. Of course, without Black's vast songwriting, it would've withered in inexpressible self-denial. Was Santiago just riffing on Black's well-laid tracks? Or did he bring something to the band that was somehow less and more than everything else?
(No good segue, unfortunately)
The band only once addressed the audience in one-hour forty-minutes of playtime. Kim Deal said, "And now for a song from the movie Eraserhead." She sounded a little psychotic saying that, and sang off-key for the rest of the song, a little distracted, probably wondering why Black left the stage. She was not alone in this—I think most moderate-to-diehard Pixies fans would wonder why he declined the microphone during the Lady in the Radiator song. The answer to this, and in fact thesis of my article, might stagger you, casual reader:
(I advance this cautiously; it's a bold things to say, and just the opinion of the writer, who has been a severe Pixies fan since 1993.)
Black Francis doesn't give a shit about the Pixies. Don't get me wrong: he knows what the songs are. They're a place he'll never get to on his own (in his solo work). And I think among band members, there's love and respect (despite the gossip columns). But the Pixies phenomenon itself does not impress Black. The reunion is a total and unabashed cash-in; it's something they should have kept the band together for: a living.
That said, the concert was rough sex. They brought the audience to multiple screaming orgasms, but the band did so with a cruel unaffected smile. Like a big screen killer turning the knife in his victim, over and over, relishing the gasps. That's how it was with each song. They tore from one cult hit to another with godless perfection. Their sound was so big and intimidating, the two opening bands that somehow hoped to shine in the incredible supernova of the Pixies became flat unreflective tar on a mica-less, quartz-free blacktop. The Pixies cemented their chapter in rock history: a + b = they rocked. If only they had a solid live act, some would say. But then again, this isn't the E Street Band. When Bruce Springsteen sings about New Jersey, Frank Black starts whiny-screaming about the biggest mountain in the solar system. Springsteen's got the working class, Black has got Lemurians. Whereas others look to Woody Guthrie, the Pixies cite Man Ray. They're awkward and clinically uncool. That's why I, along with a hundred-thousand shaggy-lascivious pot chimneys sort of like me, identify with them. And that's also the reason I fucking drove close to seven hours with my friends and loved ones to see them in Montreal. And had a goddamn blast.
Regards to Sting's Phantasm, Mr. Sheena Easton