Album: Pixies

Pixies, Cooking Vinyl
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These 18 minutes throw the parlous state of modern rock music into all-too-sharp focus. The nine brief, brusque tracks that comprise this mini-album were those remaining from the Pixies' early, unreleased Purple Tape recordings after eight were plucked from it to make up their Come on Pilgrim debut. Despite being leftovers, they seethe with the kind of brittle, manic energy and invention that American rock all but abandoned somewhere between grunge and nu-metal. Several of these songs appeared later in re-recorded versions: it's extraordinary that the slouching charm and killer hook of "Here Comes Your Man" weren't considered strong enough even for their follow-up album, while "Broken Face" still has a quirky power unlike anything else in rock, 15 years on from its inception. The familiar Black Francis imagery of bones, violence and injury pervades several songs, and he has rarely screamed as cathartically as he does on the closing "In Heaven". But what these strange and beautiful relics mostly left me wondering was: whatever happened to Joey Santiago? The keening, vertiginous swooping of his and Francis's guitars in "Break my Body" offers a stark reminder of the kind of sonic invention that once animated American rock, when it had vision instead of "issues".