by Josh Frank and Caryn Ganz
St. Martin's Griffin, 316 pp., $14.95 (paper)
Gary Smith, who recorded the Pixies' first official session at Massachusetts' Fort Apache Studios in 1987, describes the quartet's bizarre appeal this way: "They seemed like regular, normal people, and yet they were doing this thing that was from another planet." Indeed, in Austinite Josh Frank and Spin Associate Editor Caryn Ganz's oral history, the four Pixies themselves offer almost no hint of the twisted minds that spawned college-radio classics like "Gouge Away," "Wave of Mutilation," and "Bone Machine," and they seem almost apologetic for writing the perfect pop song in "Here Comes Your Man." They're almost too nice, shrugging off the hard feelings that arose between founder Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis) and bassist Kim Deal due to the latter's unexpected star quality, evident at their earliest gigs at Boston rat holes (including, appropriately enough, the Rat) and full-blown after Deal sang lead on Surfer Rosa's "Gigantic." Luckily, Beantown scenesters like Smith, Deal's ex-husband John Murphy, and Throwing Muses Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly fill in the blanks, and a chorus of musicians (Bono, James Iha, Shirley Manson, Ian MacKaye) gladly testify to the Pixies' profound impact on an unsuspecting, and still grateful, rock world.
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