LA duo updates the other Pixies single for a new millennium, drawing out the darkness AND the romance in this dreamy new cover!
Forget the internet, the dotcom boom, file-sharing, the collapse of the housing market… in a certain respect, The Pixies created the future. They created the template for alt-rock with their seminal Surfer Rosa, causing Nirvana to seek out Steve Albini to helm the boards for In Utero and, as a result, indie rock in the 21st Century. Their signature quietLOUDquiet formula prefigured the pyrotechnic instrumental post-rock of bands like Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A tendency towards clean tones, tastefully dipped in carefully chosen distortion, would help give birth to Emo, particularly that of the Midwestern variety. They drafted the blueprints that would later be built into the indie music and culture most of us have grown up with.
Depending on who you are, there’s a good chance your first introduction to The Pixies was the climactic finale of David Fincher’s Fight Club, where Kim Deal’s haunting, sirenesque wail soundtracks the (fiery) collapse of global debt. There’s no denying that sound, and the themes that scene explores, is central to the world we’ve been inhabiting the last twenty years. It wasn’t the first time The Pixies were used to stunning effect on a film soundtrack, however. 1989’s “Wave Of Mutilation” had a similar Zeitgeist-defining moment on the equally influential Pump Up The Volume, with its themes of suburban alienation and subcultural uprising.
PIXIES – WAVE OF MUTILATION
Despite its popularity and prescience, Pixies’ “Wave Of Mutilation” doesn’t sound particularly futuristic. Joey Santiago’s surfy guitar tone could’ve come straight from a Dick Dale record while Kim Deals’ vocal might have just as easily been recorded in the Brill Building in the 1960s. The only thing preventing the anachronism is Frank Black’s surreal, magical realism lyrics about Japanese businessmen committing suicide by driving into the ocean. “Wave Of Mutilation” imagines a world where these stressed-out execs sail away into a magical world, frolicking through an octopus’ garden to flirt with mermaids and foraging for pearls. It marks a moment where there was hope that the uber-square world of business and finance might meet the psychedelic freaknik world of the indie underground and live happily ever after.
History, unfortunately, has revealed otherwise. While we won’t downplay the increase of “cool” and “hip” jobs in the 21st Century, there’s been exponentially more exploitation and co-opting, with the same mega-rich financiers expecting unpaid labor – via social media and “brand ambassadors” – and “perks” – like a ping-pong table or free kombucha – instead of actual benefits. It is Caesar’s laurel leaves as a Coachella flower crown.
The future, to put it mildly, is a mixed bag.
In characteristic fashion, LA’s MXMS perfectly capture this nuance in a brand new cover of “Wave Of Mutilation,” teasing out the melancholy and the psychedelia of the original like a sunken Spanish galleon from the ocean floor. Instead of Santiago’s signature stainless steel guitar tones, Jeremy Dawson’s guitars take on more of a dream pop sheen, like an opalescent oil slick sheen shimmering on the surface. Ariel’s vocals, on the other hand, are far more direct and in-the-spotlight than Kim Deal’s ethereal soprano, becoming more of an anthem than a lament.
MXMS – WAVE OF MUTILATION
If Pixies’ “Wave Of Mutilation” was a crew of John Carpenter-esque vengeful spirits climbing from the brine to enact their revenge, MXMS’ version would be happy to simply get high on the beach with Lana Del Rey.
MXMS’ take on “Wave Of Mutilation” is a clear reflection on modern society and indie music’s place in it. The clarity reveals all the bumps and bruises and scars, that we are ragged and limping and a little worse-for-wear. They also acknowledge how far we’ve come and deliver that most precious of pearls – hope.
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.