Tag Archives: Pixies

Nostalgic 1994 Songs: “Undone (The Sweater Song)”

Even if Weezer had faded away after putting out Pinkerton (which has since become something of a classic) their singles from The Blue Album would still be considered classics.  No other band in the 90’s combined pop hooks with loud guitars as well as Weezer.  Nirvana made taken their cues from punk and The Pixies, while Weezer used Cheap Trick as a influence, updating the pop sensibility for a rock radio format.  No other song from The Blue Album would endure as much as “Undone (The Sweater Song)”.  Everyone knows the chorus, and will joyously/drunkenly sing along whenever it is played.  Even the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” never achieved that, as famous as it is.

Even before the chorus, the opening guitar riff is hypnotic.  It’s the same note played over and over again for a minute.  The dream-like riff is pulls you in – you’re forced to listen to the song.  Even the conversation that takes place in the background of the song seems adrift compared to the guitars.  It takes over the conversation and perhaps that was Weezer’s intent – to force the listener to take in the song.  It feels like it could go on forever, reminding me much of The Beatle’s repeated riff at the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  Weezer does it at the beginning of the song, but the effect is no less enthralling.

And this even before Rivers Cuomo starts singing.  The listener is already hooked, does it really matter what he sings about at this point? In most slow verse/loud chorus songs of this era, the singer would scream through the chorus as a form of catharsis. Undone does explode in the chorus with Cuomo suggesting, “if you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.”  It’s so ridiculous, yet brilliant.  Everyone who heard that chorus the first time surely must have thought: “What the hell did he just say?”

The second chorus takes it even further.  “Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked.  Lying on the floor.”  And just as Cuomo finishes that line, the rest of the band chimes in and repeats it for extra effect.  “I’ve come undone!” Cuomo announces.  The band then takes lift-off, into a guitar-solo that never seems forced.  After the final chorus, the band itself seems to come undone – thrashing away for almost a minute.  But even among all the noise, Cuomo fires series of “ooo-ooo-ooooohs” that recall the signature riff at the beginning of the song,retaining the song’s pop elements.

“Undone” contains many stock elements of 1990’s grunge/post grunge songs.  Even by that time, the soft verse/loud chorus seemed to be dying a slow death.  But “Undone” is so different in its approach, that it seems unique among that style.  It’s little wonder that teenage kids who would later create their own bands listening to Weezer would see them as influence, and in turn take their rock-pop format foundation creating their own sub-genre of rock called Emo.

For me, Weezer was one of the first “new” bands that I grew attached to in the mid-90s.  I never had my own copy of The Blue Album, but instead had a dubbed copy of it on a cassette that I used to play all the time.  By the time “Pinkerton” came out in 1996, I had moved on to other artists.  That Christmas, I remember my brother Pete telling me I should buy “Pinkerton”, and for whatever reason I didn’t.  (I could have been ahead of the curve!)

I still enjoy many of Weezer’s songs on the radio, but like almost everybody else (and perhaps the band themselves as they are now playing The Blue Album in its entirety) I think they’ve never bettered The Blue Album, and more specifically “Undone”.

“Undone (The Sweater Song)”:

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Song of the Day: “Here Comes Your Man” – Pixies

According to my Itunes stats, I’ve played “Here Comes Your Man” 146 times.  It’s not my absolute favorite song, but I consider it one of my “go-to” songs.  It’s utter-bliss power-pop.  It’s also unusual and not akin to the Pixies’ normal sound.  In fact, it sounds more like a Beatles’ song circa Revolver – with Joey Santiago’s lead guitar taking a page right out of George Harrison’s leads.  In fact, the opening chord is very reminiscent of the opening of the Beatles’ classic “A Hard Day’s Night”.

A friend of mine once said he was going to use “Here Comes Your Man” as the opening song of his wedding.  Title aside, it’s not romantic.  It’s hard to figure out exactly what Black Francis (Frank Black) is singing about, but the word “box car” appears several times.  Is it about waiting for a train, and the man who is coming is a train driver.   The wait is so long, Francis declares (with bassist Kim Deal echoing “so long, so long”) but not to worry, “here comes your man”.  Francis and Deal take the chorus together, in perhaps the Pixies most melodic one.  (Though not their most popular song – thanks to Fight Club “Where is Your Mind” remains the group’s biggest hit.)

What makes “Here Comes Your Man” so enjoyable, is that it is a pop song at heart, yet played Pixies style.  It’s accessible, yet it still retains most of their quirks – odd subject matter and the combination of Deal and Francis’ vocals.

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Review: Pixies Doolittle Show Dec 1st DAR Constitution Hall – Washington DC

 

(Photo from The Washington Post – By Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

The Pixies 2006 documentary was aptly called LoudquietLoud.  Whether it was DAR’s acoustic’s or the Pixies’ playing – the show was one of the loudest I’ve attended in a while.   When the Pixies first got back together in 2004, I was excited but unsure whether I wanted to see them.  Reunions tours can sometimes be a bust.  

I’m under the impression that Frank Black (or is it Black Francis since we’re talking about the Pixies?) must have been sipping green tea with honey regularly for the past 20 years.  A 45 year old man should not be able to scream like he did during songs like “There Goes My Gun” or “I’ve Got Something Against You”.   But Black wasn’t the only member of the band who proved himself.  Perhaps because of the way the songs are written the songs simply cannot be performed half-assed.  That being said – the band seemed extremely tight as they shifted from their signature loud and quiet format -sometimes  several times in one song. 

Obviously, Black is the star of the show.  But as my friend Michael told me, “they’re like the Beatles of ’80s.  If one was missing, it wouldn’t be the same.”  After seeing the show, I couldn’t agree more.  Guitarist Joey Santiago is a master of the aggressive one-note style of playing – only letting loose on an extended version of “Vamos”.  Kim Deal and David Lovering proved that they are probably one of the most under-rated rhythm sections in rock.  

And to anyone who thinks that concerts where bands play entire albums suck – this show reminded me how great of an album Doolittle is. It gives the band and its audience something to celebrate.  Most reunions shows are just a greatest hits forum.  With the album-concert concept – bands are forced to play songs they probably never played.  It’s nostalgia without the bitter taste in your mouth.

And it also confirmed my theory that everytime I listen to Nirvana I hear a half-assed Pixie song.

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