News & Reviews
Alternative music fans embrace Pixies oral history ‘Fool The World’
Review by Michelle Simon
ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN; 336 PAGES; $14.95
Before Nirvana elevated garage
punkers into arena headliners, a handful of artists held down a
tradition of hardcore like the Minutemen
and Pixies, who are now
revered by today’s grunge musicians. Journalists Caryn Ganz and Josh Frank have released a unique
and interesting oral history of the Pixies,
Fool The World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies (St.
Martin’s imprint Griffins).
Fool The World is
written in play form, broken up into sections starting with the
overture which lists a "cast of characters," or the people that Ganz
and Fine interviewed. Here’s where you’ll find engaging commentary from
some of alternative music’s brightest talents like Beck, PJ Harvey, Perry Farrell and Courtney Love. You also get
snapshots of the people surrounding the Pixies when it blew away
audiences during its 1980s heyday, like their tour manager Chas Banks.
It then proceeds with the history starting before the Pixies. The book
is laid out entirely in the words of the band, those who worked with
them, friends, acquaintances, and family members, which draws the
reader into their world in a more engaging and immediate way than the
typical musical biography we’re used to reading. Each person remembers
events differently than the other.
There are also juicy accounts regarding discord and infighting of the
initial Pixies (they have now reunited) that led to their demise. It’s
with some irony that the Pixies imploded just as punk and the band
itself began landing widespread acclaim as an alternative to the hair
band doldrums that marked radio in the ‘80s.
As a huge fan of the Breeders,
a band started by bassist Kim Deal
right before the Pixies broke up, I enjoyed reading about the
development of the Pixies. For example, how they went to being a local
Boston band to one of the biggest alternative rock acts of the late
‘80s to early ‘90s is intriguing fare. They paid their dues by playing
in dive bars for a number of years, unlike today’s so-called
"alternative" bands that are mostly record label creations.
Back in the day, there was a do-it-yourself attitude where many garage
bands, unable to tap into the bigwig record label money, launched their
own albums, and the over-produced drivel getting churned out today just
wouldn’t fly with the fans. The Pixies represent an era of alternative
music that was raw, honest, and real, and Fool The World is a worthy
tome to that energy.
Scale: 5 stars: Incredible!...
4 stars: Excellent... 3 stars: Good... 2 stars: Mediocre... 1 star:
Rating: 4 stars
Michelle Simon, a graduate of
Holy Names University, is an assistant director at a San Francisco Bay
Area university and a political activist. She still fits into her
Catholic high school uniform.
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