Pixies Review

Pixies collects together in one neat package a superb selection of Pixies video material. The DVD consists of four segments, each of which deserves it's own closer look.

Live From the Town and Country Club 1st May 1988
Running Time 41.15

A live performance that falls neatly into the up-close-and-personal school of live recording. Everything is filmed from either practically onstage or from the first two rows and, as a result, captures the essence of the live band extraordinarily well. At times, it's like standing on stage with the band and it captures the urgency and energy the band have live. Short cuts and good editing are the keys here.

One other thing that this video captures is how exciting the band were at this time. The set, though relatively short, is superbly paced. There's a sense of occasion present as though the band realise just how seriously good they are and how people are just starting to realise it. And they make it look easy, relaxed even. Witness Black Francis casually breaking a string during Ed is Dead and un-self-consciously miming guitar parts until another arrives just in time for Where is My Mind?. He never smiles, unlike Kim Deal who seems like one big grin, rocking gently back and forth, nodding her head, clad in sweaty college T-Shirt, cradling her bass. Her voice providing warm foil for Black's grating, manic delivery, best exemplified on the simmering rendition of Gigantic here. They are tight to the point of perfection, and play with the sort of barely concealed rage, combined with tenderness, that they are known for. Something Against You is almost spat out, rather than played. Black Francis never looked so much like an icon as he does when swinging his guitar back and forth during In Heaven. And it all ends on the excellent Wild Honey Pie, which they manage to make all their own.

All in all, this is a wondeful performance by one of the best live bands ever who are just getting used to their talent. Embryonic greatness is always a thrill to watch, and here it's been captured magnificently.

Picture quality is very good, filmed on video, it looks as though it has had no small amount of restoration work done to it. Apart from one or two lines of dropout that occur at some points, it could have been filmed yesterday. There is some amount of grain present, but not enough to cause problems. You could argue that the colours are slightly muted, but given the nature of the live environment, there's not that much colour to begin with. The palette is mainly dark and gray and, as such, the transfer is remarkably good in that there is a far higher level of detail than you might expect. It certainly knocks the stuffing out of VHS. Sound is also very good. There is a 5.1 remix available that sounds rich and full though at times suffers from sounding a little echoed. Far better is the full stereo mix that is powerful, loud and far clearer than you would expect. Both mixes are, though, wonderfully clear, with every chord and drum beat crystal clear. Each song is chaptered, as well as offering the more straightforward 'play all' option.

Track Listing
The Holiday Song
Nimrod's Son
Bone Machine
Levitate Me
Ed is Dead
Where is my Mind?
Something Against You
I've Been Tired
In Heaven
Tony's Theme
Wild Honey Pie

Running Time 23.03

Of course, no eighties band would be complete without a collection of MTV fodder videos to it's name, its the law, and The Pixies are no exception. They range from the twee Here Comes Your Man to the experimental Head On to the arty B&W Monkey Gone To Heaven and very nice they are as well. They never fall into the trap of trying to be more than performance based which is a trap that still befalls many an artist. They do, however, look like products of their time. There's something quintessentially eighties about the primary colours and arty jump cuts about these videos. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it's just interesting to compare them to the live show, which could have taken place last night.

Picture Quality is, on the whole, very good. There's quite a lot of grain present, but that's only to be expected. There's a wide variety of difference as well. Veloria looks fantastic, while Digging For Fire is very grainy indeed, though that's more to do with the source material than any masering issue. Sound is uniformly good throughout. Even without a 5.1 mix, the stereo job sounds strong and clear. Again, the viewer is offered the choice of track selection or 'play all'. Little details like this are important.

Track Listing
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Directed by Neil Pollock and Black Francis
From Doolittle

Here Comes Your Man
Directed by Bekenier and Pollock
From Doolittle

Directed by Peter Fowler
From Bossanova

Dig For Fire/Allison
Directed by Peter Scammeili
From Bossanova

Alec Eiffel
Directed by Stretch
From Trompe Le Monde

Head On
Directed by Wild Scientific
From Trompe Le Monde

Directed by Vaughan Oliver
From Doolittle

On The Road
Running Time 30.00

From the archives, and a real treat, this is all unseen footage from the 1989 European and American tour as filmed by crew member Myles Mangino. It's all great, candid stuff; see the band play with pigeons in St Marks Square, Venice and see David Lovering get chastised by Kim Deal for accepting the address of a twelve year old fan in Italy. Watch as they dis the 'worlds longest limo' for having no seats. There's some great festival footage from Glastonbury and Roskillde and prepare yourself for the sight of the most miserable, depressed looking crowd at Glastonbury. There's also snippets of sound checks from tiny clubs in Greece and blurry footage of other gigs from Chicago and Paris. The live footage is woefully short, though, but the other stuff is interesting. Myles begins with a sort of commentary to introduce the footage, but then falls silent and lets the clips speak for themselves, which is probably for the best, as it's all edited very well indeed.

Picture Quality is fairly poor throughout, but given the source material, this is forgivable. It's grainy and looks like VHS which, of course, it probably is. Sound is also very patchy, and it's quite hard to make out what's going on at times. All in stereo of course. Forgivable, though, given the rare nature of the footage. No chapter selection.

Running Time 50.02

In which celebrities such as David Bowie and PJ Harvey clamber over one another to announce just how good they thought The Pixies were. In truth, this sort of adoration becomes a little tedious, and somehow depressing, after a while. Even the ghost of Kurt Cobain is wheeled out to declare, via a journalist from some tedious rag of course, that BossaNova was "...definitely his favorite album of the decade". Horrible, just horrible. If you really need a collection of talking heads to tell you why The Pixies are good, then look no further. Best to ignore them, though, and concentrate on the interviews with the band themselves who come across as warm and funny individuals. The contributions from producers such as Steve Albini are very interesting and informative as well, as they concentrate on how the band achieved its sound and it's a shame there wasn't more from them and less from the likes of Bono bewailing how uncool U2 where in the 80's compared to The Pixies. There's live footage galore, though short and the best stuff is from the gig contained elsewhere on the disc. In all honesty, this is something that you probably won't watch more than once and if you're a long-term fan, you've probably already seen this and so there's no need to watch it here at all. Picture Quality is never less than excellent, and the sound (stereo only) is clear and full. No chapters, though.

None of the programmes are subtitled


Your primary reason for purchasing this DVD is for the excellent live footage from the Town and Country Club. Though short, it's never less than excellent and demands to be watched again and again. The videos are a nice extra and the documentary footage is merely the icing on the cake. The picture quality varies throughout, of course, but then it's a sort of video archive, so there's little point complaining. The sound is uniformly excellent when it counts, so it's all forgivable. It's nicely structured, and each of the four pieces nicely compliments the others, with Gouge being the obvious weak point. Well worth a purchase and even more highly recommended because of the low price you can pick it up for.

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