No rock band has ever consistantly exceeded expectations quite like Pixies. Formed by four dirt-poor Bostonians in 1986, the band released four albums, an extended EP and a handful of singles on 4AD (an English art rock label largely kept afloat by the inexplicable staying power of The Cocteau Twins), barely blipped the domestic charts whilst enjoying massive sucess overseas, headlined the Reading Festival in 1991, opened for U2 on the Zooropa tour in 1993, and disbanded later that year after lead Pixie Black Francis announced their breakup to the world on a radio interview, and then to his three bandmates via fax.
Though seemingly destined to drift off into obscurity, the band's long, slow comeback started almost immediately, as Kurt Cobain started telling anyone who would listen that Nirvana's breakout single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", was his blatant attempt to rip off a Pixies song. That simple endorsement had a lot of power; a quote on the band's record company website credits Cobain's admission with singlehandedly bringing about "the beginning of the end of counterculture." Hyperbolic, sure, but not necessarily inaccurate: by the end of the decade, when their early single "Where is My Mind" was becoming forever linked to the apparently archtypical modern male's emasculation-via-consumerism through its use in David Fincher's Fight Club, the quartet had easily become the biggest dead band of the 90s. I can personally attest to the fact that Pixies fanatacism was only stoked by the band's limited output – with only five records, there's nothing to do but listen to them all. A lot. In 1994, I played my cassette of Surfer Rosauntil it wore out. Twice.
But then, because irony is a virus that we cannot escape, and can only hope to contain, in the Spring of 2004 Pixies came back, for an almost-two-year, sold-out tour called – wait for it – Pixies Sell Out. loudQUIETloud, a film by Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin which had its world premiere last week at SXSW, is about what happened next, and as concert films go, it's fairly phenomenal. Galkin and Cantor paint Pixies' tale as an epic romance that was doomed from the start; when the lovers reunite (for a host of reasons, but not one of them love), the end result is, much like the film itself, both spectacular and sad.