The Pixies have come to define the ubiquitous rock critic's term 'seminal,' as a band that, though short lived and underappreciated at their peak, continues to influence music around the globe. As a defining voice in what would become alternative rock, the Pixies pioneered the soft/loud dynamics, stops and starts, wrenching guitar and cryptic lyrics that were brought into the mainstream by such later acts as Nirvana and Radiohead.
And while the haunting, interlacing vocals of front man Black Francis (more recently known as Frank Black) and bassist Kim Deal, along with innovative guitar work, brought the band to the cusp of success, the group disbanded just before alterna-rock hit the mainstream. In 2004, however, the band reunited for a series of shows at festivals and a fall tour, playing in sold-out venues to crowds who included The White Stripes, Mike White and Gwen Stefani.
Formed in 1986 by Boston roommates Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis) on guitar/vocals and Joey Santiago, also on guitar, the duo quickly found bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering through a newspaper ad. Originally performing under the moniker Pixies In Panapoly, the group secured a UK recording contract with label 4AD after the label's founder saw them opening for Throwing Muses in Boston. 4AD issued the Pixies first release in 1987, a 7-song EP entitled Come On Pilgrim. In 1988 the group released their first full length album, Surfer Rosa, produced by Chicagoan Steve Albini, of Big Black renown. The album, which sold more in the UK than the US, also garnered the praise of UK critics, who named it Album of the Year.
The band quickly followed Surfer Rosa with the record Doolittle in 1989. Doolittle had higher production values (a cleaner sound) than the previous record and spawned the college rock hits "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "Here Comes Your Man", "Debaser" and "Wave Of Mutilation." The album reached number 98 on the US Top 100, and went all the way to number 8 in the UK. However, the band was beginning to splinter, and went on hiatus after the briefly touring the record. During this time, Kim Deal joined another band with Tanya Donnely from the Throwing Muses and bassist Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster. They were called The Breeders. The break from The Pixies was brief, however, and by the end of 1990, the Pixies had released their third full-length, Bossanova. The new album contained no Deal-written songs, and was the first Pixies effort to receive half-hearted praise. However, the record became a smash college hit, and the two tracks "Velouria" and "Dig for Fire" went onto to become early nineties college anthems.
Though the supporting tours for Bossanova were successful, the relationship between Deal and Francis had soured to the point that Deal seemed ready to call it off, announcing from the stage on the last date of the tour that the concert was "our last show." It wasn't - the band toured their next album, 1991's Trompe le Monde, as opening act for U2's huge ZooTV tour. Trompe le Monde was supposed to be their last studio album, however. In 1993, Black Francis announced the end of the band on BBC radio, despite the fact he hadn't mentioned the split to the other band members. He went on to record under the name Frank Black, and Kim Deal had a number 1 hit ('Cannonball') later that year with The Breeders. In 1997 the band issued another release, Death to the Pixies, a collection of hits and live recordings.
In a pleasant surprise to fans, The Pixies announced a US and European tour - their first in over a decade - in April of 2004. The announcement included an 11-city 'warmup' tour within the States, followed by the European leg from May to July.
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