Song of the Week – Cannonball, The Breeders

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

A few weeks ago, I was with friends that asked the question “What was the best concert you ever saw?”  I’ve seen some very good ones; classic rock like Springsteen, The Kinks, Allman Brothers, and Zappa, through to the acts of this millennium including White Stripes, Arcade Fire, Real Estate, War on Drugs, Arctic Monkeys, and New Pornographers.  But one of my all-time favorite concerts was seeing Pixies at San Diego’s Street Scene in 2005.  Although it was the “reunited” Pixies, the band included all of the original members – even bassist Kim Deal.  They were a powerful group!

Today’s SotW is “Cannonball,” from The Breeders album Last Splash.

Why not something by Pixies?  Because I posted about “Debaser” in April 2018.  And “Gigantic,” written by Kim, was posted by Peter in 2013.  Besides, “Cannonball” is a very cool song and The Breeders are Deal’s other band.

Deal formed The Breeders when internal conflict with Pixies frontman Frank Black became untenable.  The first iteration of The Breeders included Tonya Donelly of Throwing Muses and Belly, Josephine Wiggs, and later, Deal’s twin sister Kelley.  By the time of Last Splash, Donelly was out and Jim Macpherson was in on drums.

Now, back to “Cannonball.”

“Cannonball” was chosen as #12 on Rollin­­g Stone’s 50 Best Songs of the 90s and was a substantial hit on modern rock radio.  It even reached #44 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  But it was one of the strangest, most unlikely hits to achieve that success.

It opens with Deal making a soundcheck (“Check check check, one-two, one-two”).  The next thing you know there’s a chant that sounds like the guards at the Wicked Witch’s castle in The Wizard of Oz.  A drum click track sets the rhythm for a bass line to start the song in earnest after stepping up in key.  The guitars join in and then there’s this weird screeching sound like an old fashioned, dial-up cable modem.  (You probably have to be at least 30+ years old to know what that means.)  The track utilizes the soft/loud dynamic that was a trademark of Pixies and there’s a false ending.  Then it throws us off by actually ending abruptly.

The lyrics are totally incomprehensible (at least to me) so I won’t even attempt to quote or interpret them.

Although Last Splash was The Breeders’ most successful album – it also included the terrific “Drivin on 9” – this configuration of the band had broken up before they could record a followup.  However, they are back together again and were touring earlier this summer.

Enjoy… until next week.

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.