The Pixies’ heyday lasted only long enough to make five albums, but it proved enough time to make the band one of alternative rock’s most influential. Like The Velvet Underground a generation earlier, the Pixies didn’t set the commercial world ablaze, but their records fanned the flames for scores of musicians drawn to the group’s edgy brand of rock.
And perhaps no Pixies record left a greater impact than “Doolittle.” The landmark 1989 work encapsulated their signature sound of stop-start lyrics, gleefully angular guitars and extreme dynamics. Music critics have hailed it among the best albums of all time.
More than 20 years later, “Doolittle” still throws a mean punch — so much, in fact, that the reunited Pixies, who will play the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center on Tuesday, are performing the record in its entirety on this current tour, which began in 2009.
“We’re just shocked, ’cause it’s been three years,” said lead guitarist Joey Santiago. “But we’re more than obliged to do it. We put a lot of time and effort in putting on the show. Right now, this is pretty awesome. It still feels good.”
Formed in Boston in the mid-1980s, the group — Santiago, vocalist/guitarist Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering — emerged from a seemingly schizophrenic hodgepodge of musical leanings that ranged from surf to folk. Together, however, they created a strange alchemy that seesawed between hushed, relatively calm verses and Francis’ caterwauling choruses.
“I knew it was different just because we were really conscious of not being derivative,” Santiago said. “We tried not to sound like other bands.”
A number of other acts, however, ended up sounding a lot like the Pixies. Even Kurt Cobain famously confessed that Nirvana’s watershed hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” adhered to the Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud blueprint. The group’s cult status peaked with “Doolittle.” Eventually certified gold, it produced two college-radio hits with the psychedelic “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and the hard-candied pop of “Here Comes Your Man.”
It also marked the beginning of the end. Tensions escalated between Francis and Deal and, despite two more discs, the Pixies broke up in 1993. Francis launched a solo career as Frank Black, while Deal concentrated on her own band, The Breeders. Santiago scored film and TV; Lovering became a magician.
Hostilities can fade, however. A 2004 series of reunion shows paved the way for a “Doolittle” 20th-anniversary tour that has yet to stop.
“I would say we just have more appreciation for what we are. I mean, the Pixies are pretty lucky. And it’s even luckier that we’re in it, you know what I mean?” Santiago said. “At least we made those great albums. I guess we weren’t that mature in hindsight, because we broke up, but, hey, everybody has to have their swan song. At least we’re mature enough to trudge through whatever tensions and stress we had.”
Photo by Chris Glass