Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Clandestine Classic XXXVIII - Levitate Me

Come On Pilgrim
The thirty-eighth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

The question, though, is how to choose a clandestine classic by a band as successful, for so long and in so many places, as the Pixies. Knowing my blog's readership as I do, I'd say there's a fair chance you like the Pixies. There's a pretty good chance you own a copy of Doolittle. You might even have had a "Death to the Pixies" t-shirt back in the day. So how am I, with my little series of lesser-known greats, going to sneak a Pixies track by you? Well, chances are I'm not... but, in honour of the fact that I'm going to see the band live this weekend, I am going to try.

Let's go back before Doolittle, back even before first album proper Surfer Rosa, to the Pixies first release, the Come On Pilgrim EP. This in itself was just eight short tracks re-recorded from their demo, the Purple Tape, and weighed in at little more than 20 minutes. But even for a band so much in its infancy, the Pixies were pretty much fully formed. All the trademark sounds were there: Frank Black's vocal range and twisted lyrics, Kim Deal's rumbling bass and deceptively sweet harmonies, Joey Santiago's meandering guitar lines and David Lovering's dynamic percussion. Oh, let's not forget the whole quiet/loud/quiet thing that became a trademark of the band, and was much copied a big influence on many other bands, including such luminaries as Nirvana and Radiohead. In fact, so ready, so complete was the Pixies experience in those early days, even though only eight tracks from The Purple Tape made it onto Surfer Rosa, many others later resurfaced on other albums, even as late as Subbacultcha on Trompe Le Monde. But I digress - what of today's classic?

Well, Levitate Me is pretty much an early archetype. Quiet/loud/quiet? Check. Subterranean bass? Check. Vocal range? Check. Obtuse lyrics, with pop-culture references and possible ominous subtext? Check. It really is all there. Much has been written about the Eraserhead connection, but you don't need to be familiar with that film to enjoy this song, as I can attest. All I know is that the sound of Frank and his band have been embedded deep in my consciousness since my own Elevator Lady introduced me to Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa a barely believable 24 years ago. I've been in her debt ever since, for this and so much more.

You can pick up Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa together here - honestly, I can't think of many better ways to spend seven pounds of your money. For today's classic only there is, of course, YouTube. And if you're off to see the Pixies at this weekend's Field Day festival, who knows, we might walk right by each other...

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