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Pixies Doolittle 25

Doolittle had been out for a year before my friend crammed a pair of headphones over my ears and played me ‘Debaser’. I'd have been 13, the age when you start trying to construct your identity through the things you consume. As Black Francis and friends clattered through the musical equivalent of what stage actors refer to as ‘chewing the furniture’, I knew I'd found something to call my own. Bright, ragged pop that flip-flopped to sub-punk shouts and scrapes and back again; crazed, unpredictable, wilfully weird. Music had never surprised me before. The lyrics sounded like nonsense, like secret messages from the adult world. My friend and I would nod seriously at each other over the skewed poetry of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’, certain it was written just for us. Within six months, we'd both bought cheap guitars. Then Nevermind dropped in 1991 and that was that.

If Pixies sound unexceptional today, it's a mark of their disproportionate influence on all that followed them. And if my reminiscence seems self-indulgent, then it's of a piece with anniversary re-release albums, which are aimed precisely at ageing nostalgics like me. If the kids want to check out Pixies, they'll just go straight to the hits on YouTube. You have to have argued long and late in dingy pubs about a record to want to compare the demos to the album cuts, to dig through the second-tier stuff that came out on the flip-side of the big singles.

And it's still a pleasure, even though it increasingly feels like my childhood is being museum-ified and sold to me a second time, remastered and sealed in digital amber. But that's the fate of all culture, in the end - to become canon or to become obscure. For me, Pixies will always be both.

Paul Raven

by Now Then Sheffield
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