The Pixies' first reunion produced one song--Kim Deal's "Bam Thwok"--and a bunch of chances for people who were born between Surfer Rosa and Tromp le Monde to see them live for the first time, and was thus low-risk-enough to be almost universally popular. Now a possible Pixies re-reunion is on the horizon, and with it some new album rumors.
This is how weird alt-rock has gotten: My Pixies-fan friends are terrified by this development.
Because for all the questioning of traditional rock-mag authority that are ostensibly built into alt-rock, alt-rock fans themselves are as deeply worried as any other set of devoted fans about their favorite bands' critical and popular favor. They're protective of a band's discography in a way that baseball fans are protective of a hitting streak, or a 100-RBI run on the back of a guy's baseball card.
The Pixies broke up right at the peak of their influence, and released their last album a couple of years before that, so they're especially stuck--a generation of huge Pixies fans has grown up with them frozen in amber as The Band That Influenced Nirvana and the band that was too good to really get famous and the band that defined all kinds of sounds that were about to grow ubiquitous without ever sounding broadly poppy themselves.
So when the latest set of Pixies rumors came out--started by a Perry Farrell tweet, of all things--
Still is Pixies r recording rt @lecultvult: Back in the day the cool kids at my high school it was all about Jane's Addiction and the Pixies
— Perry Farrell (@perryfarrell) June 8, 2012
--and continuing with an Instagram from Paul McCartney's manager, of all things, and a ton of internet-detective speculation last fall, people weren't just worried about whether the new album would be good. They were worried about whether the new album would change the Pixies for them, and for the people to whom they self-identify as Pixies fans.
This is something I have to deal with a lot as a self-identified Weezer fan--it is literally inconceivable to me, at this point, impossible to remember, that telling someone else you liked Weezer was ever a cool thing to do. Make Believe scuppered that in 2005, and then Raditude--which I love, for god's sake--made it even less cool.
Saying you like Weezer, now, is like telling someone you're really into states' rights--there's a weird, not-really-helpful social compulsion to add "but some of my best friends are black!" or "but really just Pinkerton,, you know, before they sucked."
Of course, I do it anyway. Did it make impressing hipsters at college a little more difficult? Well sure, I guess. But even if you didn't love Raditude--even if you aren't prepared to deal with Rivers Cuomo's J-Rock album or the related existence of this photo:
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The music you did like hasn't changed. The Pixies aren't going to release Raditude, anyway; it's pretty clear, 20 years of Frank Black and Breeders albums in, what music from Black Francis and Kim Deal sounds like in the aughts.
But everything you love is going to become uncool, eventually, anyway. Bands go out of style, new influences come to dominate the music people are listening to, and new went-out-on-top bands suck the mythological air out of the room for the old ones. If that's going to happen to the Pixies anyway, and nothing's going to change how your favorite Pixies album sounds, why not get another album and some more touring in the deal, while you still can?
Ezra Pound became a fascist; Dennis Rodman hung out with Kim Jong Un; Mel Gibson appeared in the controversial film The Beaver. Music fans should feel lucky that the worst most bands do is release an album that isn't as good as Bossanova.