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Music Reviews

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Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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December 15, 2005
Apologies go out to Andrew Warren. I've been sitting on this DVD for too long, but when it comes to a group as seminal as the Pixies, critical assessment is not one's initial inclination. Enjoyment is. After all, haven't the Pixies proven just about all there is to prove?

2004 seems like so long ago. About a year and a half ago, the post-punk poster group of the Pixies got back together as mid-lifers and played a bunch of shows, alluded to new material, and made a bunch of indie fans go fucking nuts. I remember hearing they were headlining Coachella Festival and everybody was up in arms.


Ohmygod, you won't believe what happened!

We got bombed by Iraq?

No, the Pixies are back together!! [At which point screaming, cheering, and generally going bananas ensues.]


This fall I was reminded why sometimes reunions can be a bad idea. My family was watching the Cream reunion performances at London's Royal Albert Hall and although the joint was packed to the hilt and the music was sounding good, the band was only a shell of what they once were. It's like when the Stones tour every year; same guys but a different time and a catalog of songs overplayed to levels of nauseam.

I feared those exact conditions would be recreated when the Pixies came to Chicago during that reunion tour. Even though the members weren't that much older from when they originally stopped playing, there had been a long period of idleness, which is never good for the type of unspoken chemistry that exists between the members of really good bands.

I had also heard that, even in their heyday, the Pixies' performances were spotty - one night they'd rock your socks off, the next they'd make you want to leave early. Pixies Sell Out documents the entire 2004 reunion tour but compiles it as the experience of one night, switching between venues during the course of the set.

Through the 145 minute video you can tell that the entire tour concept was fairly calculated. Switching between venues, the transitions are nearly seamless. During the crossovers guitars remain in tune and the tempo remains steady. There is a lack of interaction during the main concert footage taken from the Eurockeennes Festival in France, and much of the footage of the 15 bonus tracks (shot anywhere from The Move Festival in Manchester, England to Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, TX) is likewise generally unanimated.

Pixies Sell Out starts off with "Bone Machine" and rolls, nearly non-stop (at least so it seems due to editing), through 28 Pixies classics, finishing with "Gigantic" about an hour later. It is unclear if the shows were actually so sterile, if there was no banter at all between the band members and audience, but that's the way Sell Out makes it look. The DVD presents the group as boring and way too serious. To further add to their rigidity, none of the members really move much through the entire set. Frank Black gets the most animated as he shrieks into the mic and powerfully strums his dangling guitar, but bassist Kim Deal and guitarist Joey Santiago barely move their feet from the moment they step out on to the stage. and the drummer, Dave Lovering, might as well have been replaced by one of those exciting robotic drummers from Chuck E. Cheese. During songs like "Something Against You" the band's age becomes visually apparent through the way they carry themselves. The angsty punk song rips through at a fast tempo and the members stand still - no jumps, no smiles, no head throbbing. Nothing.

Maybe this brackish performance accurately represents how the Pixies always were, even in their prime. I don't know. I guess if that is the case, if they are really trying to play the songs and not just going through the motions to make a DVD and some extra cash, then Pixies Sell Out is a rousing success. The group sounds great reunited and the Deal/Black harmonies are as good as ever. But if such a cryogenic performance is standard fare for such a seminal band, it doesn't speak too highly for another tour, as I think that anyone who isn't a hardcore fan would have had as much fun watching the DVD as they would have had going to a crowded arena, dealing with belligerent festival-goers and paying $8 for a 12 oz. Bud Light.

SEE ALSO: www.4ad.com/pixies
SEE ALSO: www.rhino.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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