At first glance, the first full-length release in 23 years from alt-rock legends the Pixies is as welcome as it is peculiar. It’s welcome because, well, it’s the damn Pixies. It’s peculiar because all of this material was previously released in EP form, and iconic founding bassist Kim Deal is no longer around; and it’s the second of these points that influences the outcome most. ‘What Goes Boom’ is a heavy start that announces the band’s return in no uncertain terms, while ‘Magdalena 318’ and ‘Silver Snail’ allow Francis Black to show the light and dark sides of his song-writing. Unfortunately, for each decent track there are three or four stinkers, with the ridiculous ‘Snakes’ and flaccid ‘Andro Queen’ being the worst offenders. The lack of those beautifully simple Deal bass-lines like on ‘Gigantic’ or ‘Debaser’ is a devastating loss, although it could be argued it’s unfair to compare this release to music made in the early ’90s, and the album is being released to support Record Store Day after all. Almost everyone will want Indie Cindy to be a killer, but some bands like The Clash and The Replacements were never the same after dropping original members, and unfortunately the same rule applies here. (Pixiesmusic / [PIAS] Australia)
Roll up, roll up; it’s nostalgia week on the Australian music circuit, and time for every boring old middle-aged bastard to come crawling out of their miserably mundane existences to take another dull stab at revisiting a rose-tinted version of their faded youth with all the vigour of a discarded teabag. At least that’s how I feel about the peppering of paunchy forty-something fuckwits hanging around outside The Tivoli bragging about their glory days in the early nineties when grunge was king and they still had hair.
“Alright motherfuckers,” exclaims one particularly inarticulate example. “The last time I saw The Breeders they were playing on a bill with Sonic fucking Youth and fucking Nirvana”. Well, I once saw two tramps having sex in a doorway; what’s your fucking point grandad? It’s a real achievement on your part to have been born when you were. Keep up the good work and get the fuck out of my way.
Morons aside, tonight promises to be a pretty special evening. It’s been twenty years since Last Splash first pumped from the speakers of our cassette players and despite its almost unbreakable ties to the nineties, it still sounds bloody brilliant. But what about the show, the gig, the live arena? That’s where the test now lies for the recently reformed and rejuvenated band, and tonight’s performance will show that class never fades away, it just hibernates from time to time.
Support for tonight is Brisbane’s own Screamfeeder, who are an apt choice for this show. They’ve been knocking around for a similar amount of time as the head-liners, or “an awesome forty-five years” as frontman Tim Steward proudly tells us, although they put in a set of such high energy and skill that if we all rubbed our eyes, looked at the floor and looked back up again, it might feel like 1996 all over again. By the time the always excellent ‘Dart’ is rolled out, The Tivoli is full and by closer ‘Bunny’ we are champing at the bit for The Breeders.
It’s with little fanfare that Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, Jim Macpherson and Carrie Bradley take to the stage, and after a warmer-upper Guided By Voices cover, we’re straight into ‘New Year’ and the roof-raiser that is ‘Cannonball’.
Now hear this. I caught the Pixies when they did the Doolittle anniversary tour, and while it was great to hear those undeniably classic songs being played by the full line-up of the people who first recorded them, it was a robotic and over-polished performance by a band whose majority of members seemed to be going through the motions. Nothing could be further from the truth tonight, as The Breeders gloriously fuck up intros, trip on pedal switches and quite literally get their wires crossed; all the while adding to the charm of their show and likeability of the band themselves.
The Deal sisters are a joy throughout; their big goofy grins not for one second hidden under some fabricated aura of rock star cool, while bassist Wiggs is the vision of ice-cold contrast and barely changes facial expression throughout the whole show. The audience goes daft for ‘Cannonball’ and cools down until around ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’, before a broken violin forces a switching of two songs and threatens to bring on an OCD rage among track-listing purists, and ‘Drivin’ On 9′ provides a charming and whimsical finish.
Perhaps sensing that it might be another twenty years before The Breeders pass this way again, the audience calls for not one, not two, but three encores, including tracks from Pod and a cover of ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’, with vocals led by the still-grinning Kelley. With a multitude of smiles, waves and ecstatic cheers, The Breeders leave the stage for the final time and we’re teleported back into the realities of 2013 again, feeling happy and fortunate.
As I head for home I wonder if in twenty years time we’ll be standing outside some venue ranting like bell-ends about the time we saw The Breeders. After tonight’s performance, I’d say it’s a given.