Song of the Week – Debaser, Pixies


I was lucky enough to catch v 2.0 of Pixies in concert at Street Scene in San Diego in 2005. I never saw them in their first incarnation that lasted from 1986 to 1993, even though they were based in Boston and I was living there at the time. But at least the group I saw shortly after they reunited in 2004 still consisted of all the original members, including bassist Kim Deal. (A 2006 documentary film called loudQuietloud: A Film About The Pixies captures the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of the band’s reunion. It is available for viewing on YouTube.)

The Pixies’ debut album, Surfer Rosa, is a gem. But their high-water mark was their second album, Doolittle (1989). Today’s SotW is the opening cut on Doolittle, “Debaser.”

The lyrics relate to the 1929, Luis Buñuel silent film Un Chien Andalou. In the opening scene of this cult classic a man appears to slit the eye of a young woman. In “Debaser” Black Francis sings:

Got me a movie
I want you to know
Slicing up eyeballs
I want you to know

Girlie so groovy
I want you to know
Don’t know about you
But I am un chien andalusia

In a 2014 interview with Esquire magazine, Francis said of “Debaser”:

“The song is sort of my Cliff Notes for the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. There’s just enough information to get you through a test or if you need to know a few nuggets about that film. That was it from a lyrical point of view. Musically, it is what it is. I’m not even sure how I feel about that song. Sometimes I really enjoy playing it, sometimes I find it… I’m on the fence with it. We do it almost every night when we’re on tour. People seem to like it. It’s a good example of Pixies minimalism.”

“Debaser” is a prototypical Pixies song. It utilizes the loud/quiet dynamic that Nirvana later employed and made even more popular during the ‘90s grunge craze. But Pixies did it first!

Enjoy… until next week.

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