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It’s in Doolittle’s margins—the faux-hillbilly cackling of “Mr. Grieves,” “There Goes My Gun” and “Dead”—that the album becomes what it really is. At heart, the Pixies were a kind of American goth band, fascinated by rural violence, the intersection of lust and danger, creepy innkeepers and the sexual magnetism of strangers who wander into roadside cafés from parts unknown. Their biggest crossover single, “Here Comes Your Man,” is less tied to European dada than the rustic imagery of a pulp paperback: The boxcar, the nowhere plains, the big stone and the broken crown.

About four years ago I moved from New York to Arizona and found myself listening to the the band’s last two albums—1990’s Bossanova and 1991’s Trompe Le Monde—a lot. It’s true what they say about the desert when they say it looks like the moon. Plants and animals seem proud to have survived the odds. Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde make sense to me here, when it’s 110 degrees by lunch and the concrete ripples in the heat. They’re narrower in scope than Doolittle, and have a tough, inorganic presence, like burnished chrome.

But I think what keeps more people from listening to them is that they seem like albums that don’t care whether you listen to them or not. Bossanova is sweeter than Trompe, but its sweetness exists at an impossible distance. “She’s my fave, undressing in the sun,” Francis whispers on the cryptic miniature, “Ana”. “Return to sea—bye. Forgetting everyone.” Later, on “Havalina,” he spots a javelina—an ornery, boar-like animal not uncommon here—walking across a plain. The music is a slow dance between celestial bodies, heavenly but melancholic. So he sees the boar, and in two short lines, the song is over. Late Pixies songs are triumphs of private epiphany: Small, diamond-bright moments that flash in someone’s eyes and then disappear forever.

By Trompe Le Monde the band had transitioned from seeming like quiet people who liked violent movies to violent people who didn’t make much time for movies at all. This is outlaw music, sharpened by conspiracy theory and too much time with too little human contact. “I had me a vision/ There wasn’t any television/ From looking into the sun,” Francis sings on “Distance Equals Rate Times Time”, splitting “sun” into two syllables as though to make sure you heard him and are duly disturbed. He still howls and screams, but had also developed a new voice, a flat, posthuman kind of monotone. Trompe is more aggressive than anything in their catalog but also more confident. They can handle this now, and they do.

O catálogo do Pixies resenhado por Mike Powell na Pitchfork.

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