29 August 2005

Pixies - Hey (live in London 1988)

Sounds Machine 1 EP

I was down the front at the Pixies perfomance at the Leeds Festival on Sunday, and fuck me but they rocked like a bag of badgers.

All that bristling jagged power, all that noise and volatile fury, yet delivered with such effortless grace.

They wisely went for a set drawn mainly from Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. Whilst the other two albums have their moments, and the B-sides are great, it's those two and a half albums that really shine out, music that grabs your ears and shakes them like a ketchup bottle with a stubborn half inch left at the bottom.

The dark lunatic energy saturates it all - the Charles Manson and David Lynch connections are entirely appropriate - yet at the same time it feels like the chassis is made of early 60s Beach Boys surf tunes, all big bright bouncing choruses and simplistic basslines.

And whilst you really would never have thought them as a band of real showmanship - and doubly so in their present middle-aged 75% slaphead incarnation - special mention must be made of Joey Santiago's wigouts.

On Vamos he was wah-ing away, then just unplugged the guitar and touching his thumb to the live lead carried on making noise. Plugging the guitar back in he thrashes away further before placing the guitar on a stand and holding up a hand as David Lovering, without missing a beat, throws a drumstick which Joey catches and gives it a right old Jimmy Page bowing for several minutes, blistering sonic assault spewing out over Francis' insistent acoustic rhythm. That done, he throws the stick back, David justs lifts his hand and - again without missing a beat - brings the stick back into play. Mental!

It's been said that only a couple of thousand people bought the Velvet Underground before about 1985, but every one of them formed a band. It's good to see Pixies, another band whose influence exceeds their commercial success, getting what they deserve at last too.

I have a dusty pile of various artists 7 inches, and most of them are things that came free with late 1980s music papers. In a foolish non-cost-effective way to prop up their flagging sales figures, Melody Maker gave away an EP. None of those muffly flexidiscs, a proper bit of hard vinyl of exclusive tracks by bands you'd like to hear more of.

To keep up, NME and Sounds followed suit. Having painted themselves into a corner, MM did even more. And so it spiralled until Sounds went bust.

In a last bit of poor judgement on the part of Sounds, in 1988 they realised that people were buying an EP'ed music paper as a one-off so they did the Sounds Machine series of three or four EPs consecutive weeks in the desperate hope you'd just get into the habit of buying their second-rate metal obsessed rag.

The first one came out, if memory serves, in autumn 1988. Those of us in what was still called 'alternative' bands had all got deeply into Surfer Rosa by this point. We could feel our creative output being pulled onwards by that album.

It is hard now to convey the anticipation we had at the idea of a new Pixies track, exceeded only by the shock at actually hearing the thing.

Hey, recorded live during their support set for Throwing Muses at the Town & Country Club in London on 1 May 1988, was from another world entirely. The slow build of the first third of it, the anguished electric guitar, was this what all the next album was to be like?

It was months and months of waiting, and I was there in Street Records in Southport on the morning of release to pick up my advance-ordered copy of Doolittle, an album that still amazes, energises, challenges and inspires as much now as it did that day.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]


Ernesto said...

I'd kill for that record. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Wow... I got that very same 7 inch somewhere, thanks for the reminder... now where is my ebay account lol