Friday, May 05, 2006

here comes your band.

fool the world: the oral history of a band called pixies.
book by josh frank and caryn ganz. review by shannon k ronan.

five years ago, josh frank "started thinking what would a ‘rock musical’ for [his] generation look like, and it was obvious. it would look like the pixies." apparently researching the myth-laden, gossip-drenched history of the pixies turned out to be a much larger undertaking than he had anticipated. so he axed his original plan to write a play on the life of charles thompson (aka. black francis, frank black), and instead compiled his findings into a book which chronicles the life of the pixies.

frank, who describes himself as a "rock dramatist" (not to be confused with rock journalist), warned me within the first few pages that i should stop reading if what i craved was sleazy stories of illicit sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. still i kept reading, hoping that his years of endless interviewing would shed some light on the shadiest parts of the pixies past. unfortunately, the book only confirmed what i already know about the formation, breakup, and eventual reunion of the band, which is nothing.

basically kim deal and charles thompson never really got along because they both wanted to lead the band. he let her sing a few songs, the fans la-la-loved it, and he freaked. she partied hard, he became reclusive. tensions built, they got bored and split up (via thompson’s notorious fax) to pursue other projects (the amps, the breeders, the catholics, martinis) and magic. yes, magic. but then something really magical happened and after not speaking for twelve years, they decided they wanted to make a lot of money (oh yeah, and music too) so they reunited and now they’re back together and they play shows. uh, the end?

you know, it’s not to often a rock journalist (ahem, dramatist) stands aside and lets the band tell their own story. and now i know why. rock stars aren’t the most reliable characters and the truth is, they can’t really be trusted to recall history the way it was, instead they tell it how they remember it was, and half the time they were too drunk or tired from touring to remember much of anything, and the end result is a tangled mess of time lines and he said/she said’s.

at one point, frank black mentions his admiration for david lynch’s truly surrealistic ability to present ideas while refraining from explaining them. in this way too, i believe the band’s history is better off unknown. like everyone else, i love the pixies, but their story is just as boring as the story of most bands; a bunch of kids who grew up listening to everything from country to punk rock, formed a band even though they had no clue what they were doing, smoked pot, drank beers and jolt cola, and played music until people listened. you’ve heard the story a thousand times before. but never, to this day have you heard songs like "tame" and "break my body." so lets follow david lynch’s lead and let the songs speak for themselves. without any explanations whatsoever, that soft/loud dynamic, that screaming/sweet juxtaposition. that is the pixies.

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