Pixies review – punk-rock preachers revisit their gloriously deranged roots

Roundhouse, London
The weird, wild veterans perform their visceral early material and remind us of the flair that established their cult status

If Charles Thompson IV, formerly known as Frank Black and three decades ago as Black Francis, is pleased to be performing his band Pixies’ debut mini-album, Come on Pilgrim, and sublime first full-length, 1988’s Surfer Rosa, in full tonight, it’s hard to tell. His eyes hidden behind shades, he utters barely a syllable not found on those albums, even reading the infamous studio banter from Surfer Rosa off a printout. Any fears he might struggle to evince the deranged fire of his youth, however, are scorched by opener Caribou, slow-dancing to its own infernal, sweltering swoon as Thompson – having successfully located his inner Black Francis – bellows “Repent!” like a brimstone preacher, or a wild beast caught in a bear trap.

These records represent the nascent Pixies sound, before the more accessible later work that saw them tipped for the kind of success Nirvana arguably snatched from their fingertips. It’s wild music, still deeply weird 30 years on: Thompson screaming, often in Spanish, of lust and sex and insanity over mescal-soaked, stiletto-wielding punk-rock. The songs of Surfer Rosa in particular conjure a blackly comic fever-dream of South America, like some Tijuana Bible retelling of Touch of Evil. Just the sort of thing a 20-year-old gringo would cook up after a year in Puerto Rico.

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