Gouge Away

Guitarist Joey Santiago reflects on the Pixies' remarkable staying power.

It's not the same without her, like that brief period where Aerosmith tried to replace Joe Perry in the early '80s or the phony Guns N' Roses where Axl Rose tours without Slash. Kim Deal was as much a part of the Pixies as Black Francis ever was, and without her they have lost a vital component, really, the only reason the first reunion tours worked in the first place.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, the Pixies had been reunited for nine years by the time they gave up on Deal, and hadn't released any new material at all in that time. Anyone who knows Frank Black's career trajectory knows this is not something he can really take in stride. The man is a ­fountain of new songs — he's overflowing with them.

So if Deal was holding them back from making new music, fine. The only problem is that she was right to hold them back from making new music.

It's a fair point to make that the Pixies couldn't really tour those same old songs forever. Until the new songs came along, they had only five records to use in creating a set list. People were already getting bored, and the tours were met with less and less excitement because people knew what they were getting.

So for the sake of shaking things up, maybe it was necessary to record new material, except the Pixies are sort of a magical thing. Their best material was something that could never happen again, and even their last two records, Bossanova and Trompe le Monde, showed the inevitable decline after their moment had passed. Despite a minor revisionist renaissance recently, anybody could tell the act was wearing thin by Trompe le Monde, which incidentally had the least input from Deal.

But if the magic was dying by the early '90s, it's firmly dead now. Nothing the Pixies could ever do would live up to the esteemed legacy of their early work, which they've now proved by recording two bland EPs that have essentially been Frank Black solo works. That's exactly what Deal was afraid of all those years.

These EPs don't sound like the Pixies anybody remembers, save for a few scant traces. They sound like Black fucking around with genre pastiches and Pixies-esque songwriting. It might be more appropriate to call them EPs recorded by a band influenced by the Pixies than to say that they are new EPs by that band in the flesh.

They aren't even bad, either. That's the worst part. If they were humiliatingly terrible, it would at least serve as a minor amusement. These are merely diversions into the kind of generic college-rock that Pixies imitators have been spewing forth for the past 25 years, with none of the spark or songwriting genius of an album like Surfer Rosa. Essentially they're exactly what you would expect from Frank Black in 2014, and it's a shame they have the Pixies name slapped on them.

But if the Pixies could not continue without new material, then what's the alternative? Retirement.

It's not too late. As tragic as it is to see them keep going on like this with these EPs and half-baked tours with whatever female bassist they can dig up to stand in Deal's shoes, they can still retire now with at least some grace and dignity left intact. They haven't totally driven it into the ground yet.

But it's on Black's shoulders to call it a day. Hopefully he will come to his senses and retire the Pixies once and for all.

The Pixies play Bayou Music Center with Best Coast on Thursday, February 27. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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