Pixies at the BBC
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Originally released in 1998, this collection documents the Pixies at their most surreal, scary, dissonant, and powerful. Recorded live-on-the-air between 1988 and 1991, this disc is a powerful glimpse into the Pixies' live experience. Includes a cover of the Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" and "(In Heaven) Lady In The Radiator" from "Eraserhead".
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In any case, it was on this cd that I first heard any version of "Down to the well" and I was instantly drawn to it...from the cool Kim Deal incantation throughout the song, to the cool "Creep" like guitar effect in the song [I mean the Radiohead song of this name-maybe Radiohead got this effect by listening to this song in any case]. Listening to the regular album version of this song was a major disappointment...the whole arrangement was inferior to the one in this cd. Kim Deal's vocals are very feint, and the intro isn't as good either.
That song is a good example of compilations like this improving on the originals. The flipside of that is songs like "Monkey gone to Heaven". After falling in love with the album version and then listening this version, this version pretty much spoiled for a while my appreciation of the original version when I came back to it. Even though it's hard to label Francis Black a great vocalist, you appreciate his brilliant theatrics and performance in the original song because it is lacking here. This version, unsurprisingly, also lacks the lush, beautiful orchestral arrangement of the original. The worst bits, I suppose, are where Francis treads on Joe's great guitar solo by adding a few extra words, which puts Joe out of whack for what should be a highlight of the song. More forgivably, Francis varies lyrics in another part of the song...not to any great effect, but it mixes things up in any case.
Other songs I enjoyed on this album were:
"Levitate me"- Francis nearly yodels in this and his word play is nice too. The "oi" chant is more obviously an AC/DC type chant [a la "TNT"] than in the original album version.
"Caribou"-has some typical Francis type screeching and some nice poetic lyrical form-sort of like Haiku?
Some other songs which had something of interest to them:
"Wild honey pie"-another over the top vocal performance by Francis. Has a touch of "London calling" by The Clash to it. I suppose this kind of simple, repetitive lyric works better than other such songs by the band...at least it's funny here.
Perhaps the best example of overly simple lyrics [yet again, the song title is endlessly repeated] being used to good effect is "There goes my gun". Kim does some nice backing vocals here.
"Dead"-nice word games in this song-not very sophisticated though. Touch of the White Stripes about it.
"Subbacultcha"-bass heavy, like a lot of Pixies songs. Has a bass line not unlike the tune to the tv show "Peter Gunn".
"Wave of mutilation"-has an intro which reminded me of Lennon's "Starting over".
"Letter to Memphis"-starts out in hard rock form, verging on heavy metal. An early riff in the song sort of reminded me of the Bay City Rollers, but gosh, my memory of that band was never that strong!
"Ana"-a nice mellow song with Francis having a gentle singing style, unusually. The lead guitar's melody is nice too.
In contrast to "Is she weird"-another bass guitar based song where Francis just goes berko, vocally.
Overall, since there isn't a compilation by this band which compiles all the versions of songs I like best from this band, I'd say that this compilation is good if you want to hear the superior version of "Down to the well". It's not exactly "Essential" Pixies, as "Surfer Rosa" and "Doolittle" are, but if you want to add to your Pixies collection, I can say that albums like "Bossanova" and either this album or "Complete B sides" are definitely worth considering.