History will always chiefly remember Kurt Cobain as a creator of music, not a consumer. But the Nirvana leader was also an avid advocate for his favorite groups and most cherished influences. In the posthumously released Journals, he documented his 50 favorite records. Most telling of all was his inclusion of Pixies’ Surfer Rosa in spot No. 2. That’s significant because Nirvana’s biggest hit owes a great debt to the group.
“I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies,” Cobain said in a 1994 Rolling Stone conversation about “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” “We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”
“Loud, quiet, loud” has become such a staple of the Pixies’ mythos that a 2006 documentary about the legendary Boston-born outfit was actually titled loudQUIETloud. But really, more than the volume-jumping techniques, what made Pixies so incredibly special were the bizarre, imaginative characters and worlds concocted in the songs and a proficient grasp of tender Pop and roaring Rock alike.
During the group’s original run from the late ’80s through the early ’90s, Pixies delivered endlessly fascinating songs about all manner of grotesques and curiosities, discussing and paying tribute to vampires, Biblical imagery, death, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the 1988 anti-drug arcade game Narc.
Since reuniting in 2004 to tour and occasionally record (last year’s Indie Cindy was Pixies’ first album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde), the band has evolved into more of an elder statesman outfit (minus original bassist/singer Kim Deal, replaced on the group’s current tour by Paz Lenchantin, who’s worked with acts like A Perfect Circle and Zwan), showing only rare glimpses of the brilliant provocateurs of their youth. But it’s not as if the band has much more to prove; its unimpeachable impact was cemented long ago.
Pixies play The Shoe at Horseshoe Casino Saturday. Tickets/more info here.