It’s been 2 weeks to the day since the public announcement that bassist/vocalist, Kim Deal officially quit the PIXIES, with the following statement being posted on the legendary Boston quartet’s official Facebook page.
“We are sad to say that Kim Deal has decided to leave the Pixies. We are very proud to have worked with her on and off over the last 25 years. Despite her decision to move on, we will always consider her a member of the Pixies, and her place will always be here for her. We wish her all the best.
Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering”
Some were saddened by the news. Others were indifferent. I’m not sure how many were truly shocked, however. Let’s keep in mind that it’s also been 20 years since Deal was originally fired from the group that she joined in 1986, via a fax sent to her by frontman, Black Francis (aka Frank Black/born Charles Thompson). There have long been documented conflicts within the group, so it’s far from news that there might still be issues–it’s kind of assumed. And while I’m anything but surprised that Deal would walk away from the project that she created such ground breaking music with, and which would eventually make her a household name years later, I was still surprised by the announcement, because, for all I knew, they weren’t even officially together anymore.
Of course, as this new update would prove, I was, apparently, off base with that assumption; but that doesn’t mean that I was entirely unjustified in assuming it. Aside from a couple of reunion tours, they haven’t really followed through on anything that would suggest that they had any intentions of truly pushing forward as a legitimate unit anymore.
I was excited about finally catching the group during their first reunion tour in 2004, because I missed my opportunity during their original formation. I’d seen Frank Black do solo shows over the years and even met him a couple of times, but, although he had a fairly prolific post-PIXIES career with some amazing output, it still wasn’t a total substitute for that incredible, trademark, loud-quiet-loud dynamic that was generated when the full band was in full force. The interplay between Deal and Francis‘ vocals possess a magic that cannot be simulated artificially elsewhere, and when they’re intertwined with the remarkable guitar work of Joey Santiago and David Lovering‘s pummeling drums, nothing else feels quite like it. The PIXIES do not belong to any one member; their power is a collective one. They might never have gotten the full credit that they deserved the first time around, but in 2004, after putting their differences aside and coming together for their fans–new and old–this was finally a chance for them to take to bigger stages, resurrect those amazing live performances that so many of us had been designated to only witnessing through archived video footage, and stack some of that paper they’d always so greatly deserved. At least that’s the way that we all hoped that it would unfold. The reality was slightly different
For those of us who’ve seen the film loudQUIETloud, documenting that lackluster 2004 tour, it was pretty clear why the performances–or, at least the one that I witnessed–were so soulless and felt as if the members were performing at gunpoint. The animosity had never left and the issues has never been resolved. Francis needed the reunion less than anybody; meanwhile, Joey Santiago‘s mind was divided, still focusing on various other projects necessary to support his family; Deal was a recovering alcoholic taking care of her Alzheimer’s-inflicted mother; and Lovering had acquired a painkiller popping habit. They trudged through it, but to who’s real benefit? By 2005, there was talk of a new album in the works, but it was difficult to believe or get excited about. And when the doc hit the following year, it kind of sucked the rest of the hope out of anyone that was still foolishly retaining any.
I was able to see the reformed PIXES again in 2009, 5 years after that initial tour, and my mind was blown. A number of people were complaining about Francis making statements where he openly admitted that the reason that the 4-piece were hitting the road together again was to clean up on the money that they would earn from it. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter what made them come together, because they were clearly united and were playing like a band again. Plus, they were covering their classic Doolittle album in full. I was handed a setlist by the management prior to the first night of their back-to-back Seattle shows, so I know that, while a handful of B-sides were supposed to be included in their set, the double encore was additional. Even with another night to play, they gave everything that they had and then some. It was encouraging, but then they all kind of went back to their own shit again. Black Francis did some production work, released some music, and played some shows. More recently, Kim rejoined her twin sister, Kelley to breathe life back into their band, The Breeders (they’ll be performing at Bumbershoot later this year).
I mean, the PIXIES weren’t completely dead or anything. Just last month, I donated to an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign to produce a hardcover photobook chronicling the initial run of the group; so the appeal is still there. But, I’ve kind of accepted that these musical pioneers, in their current form, would simply be a band that got together to play some amazing shows from time to time, but not one that would be getting together to create anything new. The fact that their music is so timeless and otherworldly, meant that arrangement would actually be enough for me to experience without getting greedy. When Kim‘s departure was recently announced, it seemed to lend credence to the theory that they wouldn’t be able to work together beyond that. But, at the same time, it did raise the question of why such an official announcement was necessary for a band that, for all intents and purposes, could have remained on an indefinite hiatus. What sort of encounter caused this latest rift? Were they actually working on something? Well… that answer just arrived only moments before I began typing this.
At 1:48 this morning, an email showed up in my inbox that read:
We have something new we’d like you to hear. Cover your breath, polish your teeth… BAGBOY.
There was also a link to a new video (posted below) that features a kid going apeshit in a suburban home and tearing up the joint with a reckless abandon that makes it feel like the missing link between Sonic Youth‘s “100%“ video and the one for REM‘s “It’s the End of the World.” At first listen, a lot goes through one’s head. “Does this measure up to the old material?” “Does this mean that there’s more material on the way?” For me, it was hard to tell if Kim Deal was even on the track, but when you hear her voice come in at the 1:40 mark, it almost arrives like a sigh of relief. [UPDATE: it only sounds like Kim Deal. It’s actually been revealed to be the voice of a man; Frank Black friend/collaborator, Jeremy Dubs]. So… how far have they gotten with this project and what does it mean for the PIXIES moving forward? I guess that time will tell, but for the time being, it does appear that they haven’t seized up completely.
Peep out the video and let us know what you think in the comment section.