Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Clip: Remaking the Band (Pixies, Mission of Burma, Urge Overkill)

Expand Messages
  • Carl Zimring
    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2004-04-21/music.html/1/index.html Remaking the Band Will the Pixies 2.0 thrive like Mission of Burma, or stumble like
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 21, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2004-04-21/music.html/1/index.html

      Remaking the Band
      Will the Pixies 2.0 thrive like Mission of Burma, or stumble like Urge
      Overkill?
      BY ERIC DAVIDSON
      feedback@...

      The bulging floodgates of the '80s indie-rock reunion racket have finally
      burst open, with the biggest wave yet poised to hit shore: the Pixies. But
      even diehard fans seem uncertain whether the experience will leave them
      invigorated, or just soaked.

      While seemingly no more important in their mid-'80s heyday than, say,
      Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, in one of those subtle switcheroos, have since
      attained top-tier influence through their continually rewarding records and
      numerous Cobain, Cuomo, and Coldplay interview name-drops. And unlike many
      of their "college rock" contemporaries, the Pixies actually sold a fair
      amount of records (especially in taste-fabricating England), aiding their
      rise to "Beatles of Alt-Rock" status.

      Still, news of their reunion tour -- climaxing with an instantly sold-out
      UC Davis gig at the end of April, and second-headliner status (behind
      Radiohead) at Indio's Coachella fest a few days later -- comes with a large
      amount of apprehension. Dispiriting visions of fat graybeards forgetting
      chords arise quicker than hopes; many Pixies devotees worry this is all
      about the dough.

      But though it usually is, it doesn't necessarily have to be. So while we
      await the outcome of the Great 2004 Pixies Experiment, the comeback
      conveyor belt has already pumped out a few K-car-era models to consider.

      How to re-form successfully

      Mission of Burma started doing occasional reunion gigs two years ago, and
      this Tuesday will officially release a fine new album, appropriately titled
      ONoffON (Matador). This Boston band predates the Pixies, toiling in the
      burgeoning DIY scene of the early '80s, long before college rock made
      anyone a dime. "We came from a musical mentality where sales were
      absolutely irrelevant," explains drummer Peter Prescott. "I mean, no one
      formed a punk band to make money. You did it purely out of self-interest, I
      guess."

      While releasing only one proper album, a few EPs, and a live record (all on
      small labels), MoB never enjoyed the Pixies' profile. But the band is
      arguably just as influential. The "Academy Fight Song"/"Max Ernst"
      seven-inch -- minted back in 1981 with its perfect blend of Brit post-punk
      chops and Yankee garage oomph -- laid down the template for all smart rock
      since. Mission of Burma was the Velvet Underground of the '80s -- few
      people bought the records, but everyone who did went on to make their own.

      So now MoB offers another template: how to resurrect a long-gone band.

      First off, keep the initial breakup fairly civil. "There was no bad blood,"
      Prescott says. "It was just time for people to move on and try something
      else. And Roger [Miller, guitarist] had tinnitus, which was the biggest
      factor."

      Second, keep working. Prescott has stayed active with three different
      bands, the best-known being Volcano Suns. His band the Peer Group initially
      brought MoB's three members (bassist Clint Conley rounds out the group)
      back together, opening for Wire in late 2001. "So the three of us were
      onstage for the first time since '83," he says. "And I think when Clint saw
      that Wire had re-formed and hadn't embarrassed themselves, his reticence to
      do anything Burmese was broken down."

      Furthermore, don't rest on your laurels. "Another big factor was Roger was
      completely uninterested in playing again unless we wrote new songs and were
      active like a band," Prescott says. "Otherwise it's kind of stale."

      But nothing else matters if you can't deliver both the old and new material
      live. Thankfully, a recent NYC Mission of Burma gig was fiery as hell,
      despite Prescott playing behind a clear fiberglass wall and Miller wearing
      huge airport-noise-blocking headphones to ward off increased hearing
      damage. No, they don't try to slash around the stage like 24-year-olds, but
      their instrumental chops chopped off each other in classic Burma fashion,
      while the new, slightly more melodic songs fit in fine. So though one might
      expect a stoic bunch waiting for someone's eardrums to bust, instead the
      band members all smiled and wailed away freely.

      There's no grand plan for MoB, but the three are smart enough not to
      approach it as a mere nostalgia trip time-killer. "We still don't plan much
      beyond a few months ahead of time," Prescott says. "But we had twenty years
      off. You sort of refresh your brain about it. When you're constantly in a
      band, the point of why you're doing it can be lost. So for us, all that
      crud was removed, and all that was left was enjoying one another."

      How to re-form unsuccessfully

      Refreshed brains don't come to mind when conversing with guitarist Ed
      Roeser of the recently re-formed Urge Overkill. This reunion paints a much
      fuzzier picture: The band's Boston-meets-Botany 500 blueprint hasn't proved
      particularly influential, and while it enjoyed a '90s alt-rock moment of
      Rat Pack revivalism -- and, to its credit, didn't settle for lame surf-rock
      covers and cheesy tiki imagery -- Urge's ironic stadium rock reinvention
      (best captured on 1993's much-loved Saturation) didn't cut many new edges
      itself.

      Like the Pixies, UO garnered modest sales and maybe stuck around for one
      record too many (namely, Exit the Dragon) before breaking up in 1997. In
      fact, the reunion might've arrived a little too soon. No matter the
      question posed, Roeser quickly drifts back to the initial breakup,
      seemingly still a little stunned. "Part of it is just the amount of time
      that goes by, where one is able to cool off," he says. "I physically
      couldn't be in the same room with those guys. Exit the Dragon was like the
      soundtrack of us falling apart, sliding into depression. I decided what
      people love about the band is not really there anymore. It was a horror
      show. So ten years go by, and you sort of forget about those physical and
      mental reactions that are so strong."

      Roeser's less-than-convincing reasoning arises partly from UO's simple MO:
      These guys always just wanted to rock the party. And Saturation's success
      (along with a Pulp Fiction soundtrack cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman
      Soon") brought too much hype and touring expectations down on the band's
      lampshade-covered heads. The Pixies developed in a pre-"Teen Spirit" era,
      when fifty thousand copies sold was dreamsville for labels like the Pixies'
      4AD. By Saturation's day, Urge was expected to eventually pack arenas. And
      truth is, the band just wasn't that great, unable to consistently coalesce
      underground art and radio hooks.

      Thankfully, this reunion comes with down-low anti-fanfare. "Yeah, I was
      tentative, and aware of our legacy or whatever," Roeser says. "That's why
      we didn't make this huge announcement. It's like word of mouth in terms of
      people even knowing we're back together. There are people coming to the
      shows saying, 'I just found out yesterday that you were back together,' and
      they, like, drove five hours from some other state to the show. So the
      reaction's been good. It's our opportunity now to just show people out
      there that we're rocking, and that's generally the consensus."

      So all this sounds unassuming enough: Just pals giving it another go. Good
      for them, but maybe not for the fans who pay $20 to see it. A recent
      Columbus, Ohio gig was a bit of a mess, including weak vocals and a
      still-shaky rhythm section -- the blood is still bad with original drummer
      Blackie Onassis, so the new drummer and bassist are still settling in. The
      body is creaky, and it's hard to assess Urge's long-term mindset, since
      this reunion sprang up only within the last six months. The goals are
      blurry, to say the least. But cats like Roeser and frontman Nash Kato are
      lifers who, even though their post-Urge side projects fizzled, retain their
      unwavering intentions to rawk.

      "I guess the reason why one would want to get back together in a situation
      like this, besides the fact that it's an entity that has some commercial
      potential, is that the chemistry, I feel, is still there," Roeser says. "It
      has more of a magic to it that I had with any other musicians. After every
      show, I'm talking to people, and you can tell we really made their day.
      They loved it. And that makes me feel like this is extremely worthwhile.
      For the faithful who are there -- and there may be only thirty of them at
      every show -- this is their kind of music. And I don't think a lot of bands
      are capable of doing that."

      How to re-form successfully with huge expectations

      So what might these alt-rock revamps mean for the Pixies? It's
      understandable that their fans might expect the worst, just because critics
      and tastemakers have pumped the band up so intensely. Artistically, Burma
      has gained an almost academic influence, a sound debated in record
      collector circles that fuels mainly fringe bands. The Pixies are now
      considered the band that forged everything from the million-selling
      loud/quiet grunge formula to the esoteric lyrics and yowls of every little
      art-school indie rocker to this day: a far heavier mantle to heave. But
      that mantle is also durable. The mystery of how these four Midwestern dorks
      pulled together for pop's largest leap forward in the last twenty years has
      inflated to the point where it would take a mighty sharp needle to pop it.
      The fame that ultimately burns them out may still exist -- witness Frank
      Black's recent resigned "blues" records and the last, uninspired Breeders
      album.

      So yes, this could all be a mess -- soiling the image and so forth. But so
      what? What was so ingenious about the punk paradigm shift is that it
      allowed bands like the Pixies to be an admitted mess in the first place.
      Urge Overkill went the radio route with snarky jackets, big blown advances,
      and pro production, and the chance for the reunion to tarnish the band's
      old indie-boys-get-big legacy looms large. But the Pixies catalogue is
      different -- for one thing, it's still great. The Rolling Stones have
      sucked for twenty years, and Exile on Main Street ain't tainted.

      Actually, a disastrous Pixies reunion tour might do everyone some good.
      Digging on cool music isn't about bowing down to it ten years later. It's
      about moving on, making your own, and finding the next geniuses to stack
      the canon. Even if you have to plow through the old geniuses first.
    • Andy Benham
      ... I seem to have bought into this whole thing without entirely realising it. So, AMC in May, just got tickets for Television in June, and working on Pixies
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 21, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        On 21 Apr 2004 at 7:43, Carl Zimring wrote:

        > http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2004-04-21/music.html/1/index.html
        >
        > Remaking the Band
        > Will the Pixies 2.0 thrive like Mission of Burma, or stumble like Urge
        > Overkill?
        > BY ERIC DAVIDSON
        > feedback@...
        >
        > The bulging floodgates of the '80s indie-rock reunion racket have finally
        > burst open, with the biggest wave yet poised to hit shore: the Pixies. But
        > even diehard fans seem uncertain whether the experience will leave them
        > invigorated, or just soaked.

        I seem to have bought into this whole thing without entirely realising
        it. So, AMC in May, just got tickets for Television in June, and
        working on Pixies tickets at the moment.
        Still there are good current live shows around as well. Calexico on
        Monday were quite wonderful. Loads of new material, covers of
        _Alone again or_ and a Minutemen track I'm ashamed to say I didn't
        recognise, plus the usual faves as well. A band at the height of their
        powers I think. BTW support came from 'buzz' band Blanche, who I
        really didn't like at all. Far too contrived.

        Andy
      • Kevin J. Hosey
        WBNY 91.3 FM at Buffalo State College held its annual alumni weekend two weeks ago, and I got to do another fun 2-hour shift. I wasn t able to do much
        Message 3 of 3 , May 6 3:49 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          WBNY 91.3 FM at Buffalo State College held its annual alumni weekend
          two weeks ago, and I got to do another fun 2-hour shift.
          I wasn't able to do much planning and so on, but I called it no-format
          radio and here it is:
          Modern Lovers - Roadrunner
          Tom Waits - Alice
          Warren Zevon - Poor Poor Pitiful Me
          Warren Zevon - Keep Me in Your Heart
          The Damned - New Rose
          Los Lobos - Don't Worry Baby
          The Byrds - I'll Feel a Whole Lot better
          Congo Norvell - Golden Gates
          Rank and File - Rank and File
          The Fleshtones - Do You Swing?
          The Jumpers - South of the City
          Neil Young - Bite the Bullet
          Joe Ely - Boxcars (live)
          Teenage Head - Disgusteen
          The Cramps - Can Your Pussy Do the Dog? (live)
          Husker Du - Pink Turns to Blue
          The Clash - Career Opportunities
          Bob Dylan - Highway 51
          Jim Whitford - Crash All Night
          Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys - You've Got Some Cheating to Do
          Steve Wynn - Here Come the Miracles
          Gary Numan - Are Friends Electric? (live)
          Patti Smith - Till Victory
          Peter Case - Walk in the Woods
          The Blasters - Marie Marie
          Steve Earle - Copperhead Road
          The Ramones - Rockaway Beach
          Blondie - One Way or Another
          Graham Parker - Mercury Poisoning
          Richard and Linda Thompson - Wall of Death

          Kevin
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.