Monday, May 25, 2009

Fight Club in the White House

Watching a recent documentary about The Pixies reuniting was a sobering moment. As a fan of The Pixies (just "Pixies" is more accurate, but awkward), I was interested to see what the group was like after 15 years apart. Somehow, this dysfunctional group managed to rock out like they hadn't spent the last decade estranged, when they either lost themselves to addictions or in their own solo music projects. That was onstage. Offstage, there wasn't a whole lot going on. Reports of what the previous years had been like were nothing short of depressing, and it seemed that all the members couldn't wait to get back together, but mainly for the paycheck that would come from filling music halls across the country. (The lead singer, Frank Black, did manage some wonderful music in the intervening years.)

Something else struck me about the group. I was reminded of the violence in their music, which was always oddly combined with a clean-cut look, an attractive (at least in the late 80s) bassist, and a calm demeanor between songs. This was a stark contrast to the overly rebellious music groups of decades past, whose violent music was always paired with a violent image. (Think Dee Snyder
eating an oversized thigh bone, an iconic image at the time we would ridicule today.) Now, violence is an acceptable trait of the quiet man, the thinker, the amateur philosopher, the college student. What had once been public displays of pain turned into a controlled rage, a rage that was recognized, contemplated, and accepted. Who was it that bought tickets to see the Pixies on their reunion tour? 40-year-olds that listened to them in their heyday? No, from the looks of things it was 20-year-olds who still heard in the Pixies a freshness, and saw in them role models of their own controlled rage.