Pixies released two classic albums, Surfer Rosa in 1988 And Doolittle in 1989, and here we were, 30 years later in a vast venue, still thrilled by those songs and accepting new ones with polite interest. They last, these small precious collections.
The Boston band, regularly cited as a chief influence on Nirvana for their unsettling mix of savage and sweet, already exhausted the “just give us the hits” trail, reforming in 2004 and getting all the way to 2014 before they dared to make a new album. Another one, Beneath the Eyrie, was released last week. Bandleader Black Francis explained his motivation neatly in a recent interview, when he said he wasn’t resting on his laurels, but wrestling with them.
He must know that his band’s moment of red hot cultural relevance is long past, but that leaves them free to explore stranger corners with their new music. Gothic and creepy, This is My Fate lurched along like a junior Tom Waits, while Catfish Kate told a surreal folk tale over a heavyweight bassline from newest member Paz Lenchantin.
These new tracks, and especially the intense, blackhearted On Graveyard Hill, weren’t opportunities to go to the bar, not least because the quartet blazed through a huge quantity of music – well over 30 songs across two hours, with no time for niceties such as hellos or encores – and an old favourite was never far away. Debaser, Monkey Gone to Heaven and a slowed down Wave of Mutilation still had their original dark spirit. There was room for nostalgia, but plenty more besides, as the band ploughed forwards, still restless.