Charles Thompson, known as Black Francis leading the Pixies, as Frank Black thereafter, is rock's version of what Robert Frost once once described as a guide whose only interest is your getting lost.He's the ignored, fat, teenage boy submerged in rock'n'roll and science fiction,grown up into an unlikely star living stylishly as the best revenge: he pounds you or wows you, but always through mirrorshades. His insularity knows no limits. In the Pixies, that meant merging the impassioned subjectivity of screaming-boy American indie rock with the graphic-designer cool and sound seperations of English bands like the Pxies' 4AD labelmates--a hugely influential move that made grunge and the commercial dominance of guitar-based "alternative" possible.Thompson never cashed in, however, and as Frank Black he's become alternative's neoconservative theorist, rejecting the scene in favor of a subculture-of-one vision that stretches from Pong to the shores of Montezuma.Surfer Rosa, produced by Steve Albini, made the Pixies indie stars, with college radio hits like "Gigantic" (bassist Kim Deal's biggest pre-Breeders moment and "Where Is My Mind?".Francis' arsenal of screams, whines, and Spanish bablings was unrivaled. Deal's cracked harmonics gave him the perfect female counterpart, and the musical mix of her fatly rolling basslines, Joey Santiago's streamlined raw guitar, and David Lovering's heavy drums gave the likes of "Broken Face" a quality of instamatic fury, or an equally mechanical beauty. Not every song registers, but sonically the '80s bequeathed no more important album to the '90s: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" openly rewrites the mixture of raw and cooked punk the Pixies invented, and both Nirvana's In Utero and PJ Harvey's Rid of Me employ Steve Albini in tribute to Surfer Rosa.


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