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Complete "B" Sides

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Album Review

Like the rest of 4AD's Pixies retrospectives, Complete B-Sides is equally exciting and frustrating: Many of their B-sides are just as good as their album tracks, so it's terrific to see them collected onto a single disc. But a number of factors make it somewhat disappointing, not the least of which is that Complete B-Sides is available only as a U.K. import due to U.S. licensing problems. That won't dissuade Pixies diehards from seeking it out, but many longtime fans probably already have these songs, either on the original singles or on the bootlegs that proliferated while 4AD inexplicably sat on them. At any rate, Complete B-Sides mostly delivers the goods, kicking off with a ferocious version of "River Euphrates" from the Gigantic single. Witty, spooky Doolittle B-sides like "Manta Ray," "Weird at My School," and "Into the White" are so good that it's a shame they weren't saved for Bossanova, when the band really could have used them. Meanwhile, the Neil Young cover "Winterlong," which also appeared on The Bridge tribute, reaffirms the Pixies' ability to turn any artist's songs into their own. Not every song here scales these heights — "Bailey's Walk" and "Dancing the Manta Ray" are slightly less inspired bits of Doolittle-era pop perversity, and the snappy, strutting "Santo" and demented cow punk of "Build High" weren't quite ready for prime time, but they're still more interesting than many other bands' A-side material. Quirky cuts like "Make Believe," David Lovering's strangely charming tribute to Debbie Gibson, give the collection extra personality. The album also features some fun, if not extremely informative, comments about each track from Frank Black, as well as the clips for "Here Comes Your Man" and "Allison," which will only make fans clamor for the next logical Pixies release: a video collection. Though it doesn't quite do justice to the band's legacy, Complete B-Sides does a good job of filling in the gaps in the Pixies' body of work.


Formed: 1986 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Combining jagged, roaring guitars and stop-start dynamics with melodic pop hooks, intertwining male-female harmonies, and evocative, cryptic lyrics, the Pixies were one of the most influential American alternative rock bands of the late '80s. They weren't accomplished musicians -- Black Francis wailed and bashed out chords while Joey Santiago's lead guitar squealed out spirals of noise. But the bandmembers were inventive, rabid rock fans who turned conventions inside out, melding punk and indie guitar...
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