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The Pixies 

Pixies (Spinart)

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One of the less constructive myths to come from our recent Age of Self-Esteem is that anyone anywhere can be a genius, given the appropriate care and feeding of his or her tender muse. Bullshit: As Pixies proves, genius is born like Athena, fully grown from the head of Zeus, or in this case, Black Francis.

The belatedly released recording of the nine songs laid down at the band's first studio session, Pixies reveals that as early as '87, the Pixies had already come up with some of their best tunes. Pixies fans (and if you aren't one, say a novena and run to the record store now) will recognize all of these songs; six of them were variously rerecorded for Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe le Monde, and the other three have surfaced as B-sides and live bootlegs. For these three tracks alone -- "In Heaven," "Build High," and "Rock a My Soul" -- Pixies makes itself essential; meanwhile, the recording of "Here Comes Your Man" is arguably superior to its Doolittle incarnation: flintier and tuned into more of the band's compelling nervous energy. Other well-known songs are rawer, too, but otherwise they differ little from the official recordings. Which is to say they're great.

More by Maya Singer

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