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ROCK SNOB ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Pixies — Formed in Boston in 1986 under the credo “Husker Dü meets Peter, Paul and Mary,” the Pixies would, in a very real sense, end music as we then knew it. Principal songwriter Black Francis’ lulling verses/volcanic choruses formula would become the overworked template for ’90s alternative rock songwriting (see Nirvana). But dynamics was only part of the Pixies’ charm. Pet themes about God, death, sex, violence and flying saucers were bathed in eerie guitar sonics, shrieking vocals and inexplicable forays into the Spanish language, then driven home with a thunderous rock beat. Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle capture the band in its primal prime; Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde are diluted with filler and suffer from the inter-band friction that caused the Pixies to move away from one of their greatest strengths: the vocal interplay of Black Francis and bassist Kim Deal. By the time the Pixies split 1993, Francis resembled Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, changed his name to Frank Black and released a series of middling solo records. Deal formed The Breeders with her sister Kelley and released Last Splash, which went gold on the strength of the single “Cannonball.” The Deal sisters’ battles with drug and alcohol problems and creative paralysis would result in numerous aborted attempts to record a follow-up to Last Splash. — JONATHAN VALANIA
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