Best of Pixies? Seven Years of Perfect Pop and Blessed Noise is more like it. But I suppose titles don’t matter much in the end. It’s the music that counts, and it’s a good thing, too. With each passing year, the Pixies sound more and more like they belong on that special pedestal, right up there with Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones—the holiest of holies of rock 'n’ roll.
Hopefully I’m preaching to the choir, but if not, buck up for a sonic sermon.
Since any Pixies compilation—with the band’s amply stacked catalog—is going to be far better than good, I’ll go ahead and recommend from the jump that you do yourself a favor. If you don’t have ’em already, go out and buy each and every Pixies album, preferably in the following order—Doolittle, Surfer Rosa, Come On Pilgrim, Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. Also highly recommended is Complete B Sides.
But if you’re short on cash, or the type of person who needs to sample a group’s work before you commit to its entire catalog, then you have two compilations to choose from: Death To The Pixies, released in 1997, or this latest retrospective, Wave of Mutilation. The former consists of two discs—the first containing 17 tunes spanning the band’s five studio recordings and the second, a fan-favorite concert recording. While not at all a bad album (like I said, it’s hard to go wrong with these songs), Death To The Pixies doesn’t capture the band’s musical evolution as well as it should and sacrifices a number of excellent songs to make room for the live disc.
Wave of Mutilation is much of the same, minus the show. So, if you already own Death To The Pixies, you won’t need this one. Still, the new 23-track anthology has many advantages over its predecessor. The tracks are mostly chronological—which makes more sense than the scattered DTTP—so you can basically follow the band’s development from the beginning. Also, in addition to having every one of DTTP’s studio tracks (minus one or two), Best of Pixies features more material from each of the band’s full-lengths as well as two essential songs from B Sides—“Into the White” and a laid-back (for the Pixies) cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong.”
This is infinitely imaginative, hi-octane rock from a band that was “alternative” when the term actually meant something. Along with the likes of Sonic Youth, The Replacements, Black Flag, the Meat Puppets and the Melvins, the Pixies influenced Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and—through him—the entire ’90s grunge explosion that followed, forever altering the course of pop music.
But historical importance aside, one of the most amazing things about the Pixies is their ability to pull out absolute pop gems like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Gigantic” in the midst of stream-of-scream, schizo anthems like “Broken Face” and the breathy “Tame,” and at times they even fuse the two approaches with beautiful precision (“Debaser”). And then there’s all the endearingly wacky Spanglish, including a bizarro obsession with the word “muñeca,” (or “wrist”), not to mention lyrical references to mermaids, aliens, and oceanography (honestly, can you think of another band who sings about the Mariana Trench?). Combine this with a sanctified grasp of melody, some of the most unforgettable guitar hooks ever and a penchant for avant-noise experimentation in a pop context, and you’ve got one of the greatest bands to ever grace modern music. And this greatness is aptly captured on Wave Of Mutilation, making it a proper place to start for someone who wants a taste of each Pixies recording. Still, you should probably just shell out the cash and treat yourself to the whole catalog.