Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alt Rock SmackDown! The Pixies Vs. Nirvana



Kurt Cobain always wore his influences on his sleeve, and one of the most famous bands that he loved was The Pixies. In fact, Cobain has stated that Smells Like Teen Spirit was his attempt at making a Pixies song, and we all know how well that worked out for him. As a huge fan of both bands, I’m going to pit them against each other for no other reason than to jerk off over music I love. I’m just going to focus on their studio albums, since both released four albums each and it makes it easier to compare the two. While Incesticide is a b-side and outtakes collection and should therefore be pitted against The Pixies Complete “B” Sides album, I’m still going to treat it like a normal album, since it did spawn at least one big MTV hit, which is a pretty rare thing for an album of this type to do, and because it keeps the 4x4 format that I wanted. Sadly, this also means skipping The Pixies’ ep Come on Pilgrim, but it’ll have to do.

Surfer Rose vs. Bleach

As a fan of neat coincidences, both albums (if you count the CD issue of Bleach) have 13 songs each. Anyhow, aside from how great Nirvana’s debut is, Surfer Rose is an undeniable classic. It’s got some of The Pixies’ most famous songs (Where Is My Mind? Gigantic, Vamos, River Euphrates), and the entire album is what I like to call “a fun-filled romp.” What I particularly like is the little snippets of conversation and false starts included. It makes the album seem almost like The Beach Boys Party! Bleach is a really good album, but is a darker affair altogether. The most famous song from Bleach is About a Girl, though my favorites would be their first single Love Buzz and Floyd the Barber. While Surfer Rosa is a fun album, Bleach is full of metal-inspired sludge rock. And while I love their brand of sludge rock, there’s no fucking way it’s a better album. Plus The Pixies were just a stronger band all around, and their debut routinely beats the shit out of the best offerings by many other bands. And if I add Come on Pilgrim to the CD version like the Brits do, it’s no contest.

Advantage: The Pixies

Doolittle vs. Nevermind

Ah fuck. Once I started devising how I was going to pit these albums against each other, I knew that this would be the hardest one to do. While Doolittle isn’t my favorite Pixies album, it has by far the largest number of classic songs on it. In fact, if I just eliminate I Bleed from the line up, it has six of the best Pixies songs in a row. Thankfully, aside from Gouge Away, the album gets much weaker after those songs. La La Love You is perhaps the worst song The Pixies ever recorded, Silver and Hey are boring shit, and Crackety Jones just seems like Pixies-lite. Meanwhile, Nevermind has only one boring track; the album closer Something in the Way. If you remove that song, every single song on Nevermind is brilliant. That’s fucking unheard of. Yes, the second half of the album is just as great as the first half, even though the album is front-loaded with all the hits. I’ve particularly loved Drain You and On a Plain, but there you go. With one exception, Nevermind is a perfect album.

Advantage: Nirvana

Bossanova vs. Incesticide

I have never, ever liked Bossanova, and as someone who passionately loves The Pixies, believe me, I’ve tried. The song has only a couple songs that rock my ass off: the opening instrumental Cecilia Ann and the far too brief Allison. I like Velouria as well, and in the context of the rest of the album, it sounds like a classic. Rock Music sounds like one of those Gwar songs where Beefcake the Mighty has lead vocals. Shit like Dig for Fire and All Over The World just aren’t that great, and the majority of the album never rises above “meh” levels, even if Havalina is kinda pretty. Incesticide is a really interesting, since it’s got both sludgy Nirvana (Aero Zeppelin) and poppy Nirvana (Been a Son), as well as some interesting covers (TWO Vaselines songs! And a Devo cover!) The album as a whole is entertaining, because there’s also songs where it seems like the band is just fucking around. Seriously, what the hell is up with Beeswax? It also has a surprising number of classics for a b-sides/outtakes album, such as Sliver, Been a Son, and Aneurysm. Therefore, this was an easy choice for me, since I get more joy listening to Incesticide than Bossanova.

Advantage: Nirvana

Trompe le Monde vs. In Utero

Oh Trompe le Monde. Why do music critics hate you so much? This was the CD that made me a Pixies fan, so it holds a special spot in my heart. It’s also my favorite album of theirs, since I really enjoy the sound they were going for on it, and the opening track (Trompe Le Monde) is an amazing way to kick off the album. Add to that Planet of Sound, Alec Eiffel, an amazing cover of Head On, U-Mass, Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons, and Lovely Day, which sounds like they stole the guitar from Generation X’s Dancing With Myself and made a Pixies song with it, and you have one of the best “last albums” of all time. In Utero is more iffy. The only songs that I love from this album are Serve the Servants, Scentless Apprentice, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, All Apologies, and maybe Milk It. Heart-Shaped Box was by far their worst hit, since the whole thing just sounds like a stretched-out intro. Dumb seemed like Polly all over again, just not as good, and Rape Me is a song so stupid that I want to yank Kurt out of his grave and punch him in the face for writing it. So we have my favorite Pixies album against the worst Nirvana album. I think you know where this is going.

Advantage: The Pixies

For this smackdown it doesn’t appear that there’s a winner, since they’re both going two for two. When I compare their worst albums (Bossanova vs. In Utero), Nirvana comes out ahead. This is also the case when I compare their best albums (Trompe le Monde vs. Nevermind). However, the first two Pixies albums are cumulatively better (just barely) than the first two Nirvana albums, and the same goes for their last two albums. If you discard the album format entirely and just pit the songs against each other, then I think that The Pixies were a much stronger band throughout their short run. In fact, when I added my favorites songs of each band to a playlist, Nirvana had 27 and The Pixies had 31. So by a measly four songs, we have a winner.

The Winner: The Pixies

Tune in next time for Jangle Pop SmachDown: REM vs. The Smiths!

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