The Pixies: Live, Acoustic and Electric

RIYL: Nirvana, The Replacements, Jesus & Mary Chain

Here’s a nifty Blu-ray two-fer for the indie rock purist in your life. “Acoustic” and “Electric” were released individually in 2006, but are smartly paired together here, along with some footage of one of the Pixies’ first gigs at the legendary TT the Bear’s.

The acoustic show, recorded in 2005 at the Newport Folk Festival, was certainly a unique affair for both the festival and the band; the band had never done a full acoustic show before, and the festival organizers never had an artist that could claim to have influenced Nirvana, but there they were, plugging through a well-balanced set of alt rock hits (“Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Here Comes Your Man”) and large chunks of their debut album Surfer Rosa and their 1989 breakthrough Doolittle. It’s cute, though forcing guitarist Joey Santiago to play an entire set without an electric guitar is a crime against nature, something that the “Electric” set rectifies. Recorded at the tiny Paradise rock club in Boston only a few days after the Newport gig (Frank Black and Kim Deal are even wearing the same shirts), “Electric” is the Pixies as they are meant to be heard. Black even goes off the set list at the beginning and begs drummer David Lovering to do “La La Love You” because his mom’s in the audience. The band scarcely lets up from there, and Santiago gets his ya-ya’s out on a blistering version of “Vamos” where he plays his effects pedals like a synthesizer.

There isn’t much in the way of on-stage banter – after the first couple songs, they just tend to play and play – and for some reason they had no use for “Dig for Fire,” one of their best-known songs – but they get credit for mixing up the set lists and covering 37 different songs between the two shows. And with the holidays fast approaching, this is the kind of thing that someone is probably reluctant to buy, but would love to get. (Eagle Vision 2010)

The Pixies MySpace page
Click to buy Acoustic and Electric from Amazon


Pete Yorn: Pete Yorn

RIYL: Son Volt, Sugar, Ryan Adams

I imagine the conversation went something like this.

Pete: (drumming his fingers on the stained bar top) So… Frank… or is it Francis? Black? Anyway… what do you think about producing my next album?

BF: (shakes his head and signals the bartender) I dunno.

Pete: (looks wistfully at his empty glass) Oh, come on. I’m the king of collaboration and we both have indie cred to burn. Why not?

BF: (sets his beer down without drinking, thinks for a second) Okay… but one thing first. (bends over to the battered case lying at his feet, unfastens the lid and lifts out a well loved Strat) First… show me you still know what to do with this.

Pete: (frowning) That’s cold, man. I was emoting.

BF: Yeah… well get over it.

So that is more than a little bit facetious, as this latest Yorn album was supposedly recorded before 2009’s Back & Fourth. And to be fair, Pete Yorn’s affair with adult contemporary/personal catharsis wasn’t a total disappointment (and in concert he and his band totally rocked), but as a studio album, it was a less than exciting departure from a signature sound he’d developed over his amazing original trilogy. Teaming up with ex-Pixie Frank Black, Yorn takes his sound in yet another new direction on his fifth, eponymously-titled album.

Not the most coherent record, Pete Yorn borrows from a variety of stripped down guitar sounds, some roots rock, some alt rock and even some ’90s post-grunge. One listen and you’ll swear that Black’s contemporary, Bob Mould, had a hand in the guitar line for “Velcro Shoes,” and Frank’s current work shapes “Badman” heavily. “The Chase” sounds like a cover of a lost track from Social Distortions 1990 self-titled classic.

Lyrically, Yorn goes with his eclectic, left-field tendencies that made his original music so intriguing. It happens that his version of “Paradise Cove” – clearly the original, prior to what appeared on Back & Fourth – is much more Yorn-like and interesting in this rougher, lo-fi take. Still, it is also clear that releasing this collection of songs (and it really is more a collection of songs than an album) was something of an afterthought, and while engaging, it is not to be understood as a definitive new direction for Yorn. He created an inescapable, unique sound in his original three albums. Perhaps this, along with Back & Fourth and the brilliant duets album Break Up with Scarlett Johansson, will be looked at as a second trilogy in Yorn’s career; a trio of personal experiments that showcases a prolific talent trying to find his next level. Enjoy Pete Yorn for what it is, but after this, let’s see where he’s really going. (Vagrant 2010)

Pete Yorn MySpace page


New Frank Black album will cross sexual borders

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Pixies frontman Frank Black spoke of the explicit sexual nature evident on his forthcoming album, NonStopErotik, due for release on March 30.

Many of these songs are overtly sexual in a way, including “Lake of Sin,” where you sing about someone undressing behind ferns. What was the inspiration for that?
When I was a kid, in second grade, “fern” was a euphemism or code word for vagina. I don’t know where that came form. I guess the record has some graphic sexual detail but it’s only really referenced in a literal way; it’s just me talking about ferns.

Many indie-rock bands don’t discuss sexual topics so openly in their songs.
You know, I read a disparaging review that questioned whether someone wants to listen to old Frank Black singing about vaginas or whatever. I understand the point, but really the record is not meant to be a sexual appendage to your own experiences. It’s not meant to be a record you make love or masturbate to. I wouldn’t masturbate to a recording of my own voice either!

Provocative song titles include “When I Go Down on You” and “Lake of Sin.” I guess the Bible can only offer so many references.

What I’m more interested in, however, is his cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels.”

Photo from fOTOGLIF


Grand Duchy: Petit Fours

If Grand Duchy’s Petit Fours sounds like an overt throwback to the uncomplicated, low-budget sonics of ‘80s indie rock, there’s a very good reason: One half of this husband and wife duo is Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis, a.k.a. the creative engine that drove the Pixies during its seminal late ‘80s/early ‘90s run. Black’s attitude toward that period has always been ambivalent at best – he’s been quoted as saying he “spent the latter part of the ‘80s doing my part to destroy the ‘80s” – but paired here with wife Violet Clark, he allows the more accessible elements of his music to surface, creating one of the most consistently enjoyable efforts of his post-Pixies career in the process. Petit Fours’ consistency is somewhat ironic, given its resolute eclecticism; not only does none of this stuff sound particularly Pixies-ish, quite a lot of it sounds like it couldn’t have been recorded by the same band. Most groups can’t run the distance between the growly garage stomp of “Come Over to My House” and the poppy “Lovesick” without falling down, but Grand Duchy serves them up back to back, setting the tone for nine tracks of genre-bending home-studio fun. Will any of it supplant Doolittle in your collection? Highly doubtful, but it’s nice to know the old misanthrope still has some hooks left in him. If Black’s smart, he’ll keep the Pixies on the road and continue writing new material with his talented better half. (Cooking Vinyl 2009)

Grand Duchy MySpace page


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