Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Way Down in This Subbacultcha

Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies by Josh Frank and Caryn Ganz

I started listening to the Pixies around the same time I started listening to the Replacements, which is to say, about ten minutes after they broke up. From that point on, I've always felt that I missed out on quite a bit of rock and roll fun by not having been born about eight years earlier than I was. That, and say, maybe having grown up in Boston or Minneapolis instead of western Pennsylvania.

The time and place in which the Pixies found themselves was kind of an odd one, in good ways and bad. On the one hand, the music industry hadn't gotten completely disgusting yet. On the other, by making records in the years before grunge, the Pixies wound up in that thankless Velvet Underground role of influencing practically every decent band in the 90s, and making very little money while they were actually together.

Fool the World is most interesting when its subjects are talking about the Pixies' early years - how they met, the Boston scene, their first studio recordings, first European tour, etc. What's especially funny is how almost everyone interviewed, from tour managers to record label folks to studio engineers remarks upon what a "polite" and "normal" group of people they were. Kim Deal used to come to gigs straight from her office job and play songs like "Caribou" dressed like a secretary, and Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis) called everyone "sir."

The years leading up to the Pixies' break-up are pretty well documented and much speculated upon. In this book, it's all much less dramatic, which makes sense, because the story isn't that interesting. Bands break up all time, usually for about the same reason - it's not fun anymore. This part of the book is handled very matter-of-factly, and without any gossip or sensationalism. And finally, there's a nice section on the Pixies reunion tours and a "where are they now" chapter on all the folks who helped the band out over the years.

If you're a Pixies fan, this is a no-brainer, but if you like...: oral music histories like Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk or band biographies that are all about the music like Guided By Voices: A Brief History, this book is for you, too.
As a postscript, I tried to restrain myself, but my love of making Top Five lists is entirely too strong. Five best Pixies songs:

HM: Letter to Memphis, Monkey Gone to Heaven
5. Gouge Away
4. Holiday Song
3. Debaser
2. Dig for Fire
1. Bone Machine

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