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REVIEW: Alternative music fans embrace Pixies oral history ‘Fool The World’
Review by Michelle Simon

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: Lame!

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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