The Pixies’ Doolittle is 30 years old this week, which is a good enough excuse to have a Pixies tune as Record of the Day and Debaser – the opener from that classic album – is the one we’re having.
Debaser is a lot of people’s favourite Pixies song. When they play it live, it’s a guaranteed catalyst for chaos. Played live or on record, it’s a song that illustrates the alchemy that the Pixies are capable of at their peak. If you strip it down to its base elements, there’s really nothing to it:
- Black Francis’ nonsense lyrics – nominally inspired by the Buñuel/Dali surrealist film Un Chien Andalou, but essentially meaningless, though well-suited to being barked out by the frontman
- Joey Santiago’s four-chord riff and simple finger-picked accents
- Kim Deal’s characteristic bassline for beginners
Of course when it all comes together, driven by one of David Lovering’s best performances on drums and executed with passion and panache and more enthusiasm than a band that’s starting to fall apart should be able to muster, it’s a majestic, superlative, enduring, adrenalized, alt-rock classic.
Everyone’s delivery is on point and those base elements converge and soar.
Those lyrics sound incredible in Charles’ best holler, augmented by Kim’s backing vocals. Joey doesn’t have to shred when he’s making such an uplifting, joyous noise and that bassline – well, that’s trademark Pixies. You don’t need to be Bootsy Collins to be effective with a bass guitar.
The Pixies are on tour in the UK and Europe this autumn. Go and see them and witness for yourself the delerium they unleash when they play Debaser live. In the meantime, take a listen to Doolittle and marvel at how sensational it still sounds, three decades on – from Debaser through to Gouge Away. The Pixies, at their best, aren’t so much a band as a group of alchemists.