[Review] Pixies: Come On Pilgrim (1987)

Hair today, gone tomorrow, this mini-elpee is where Pixies’ candle got lit and when the 80s stopped sucking.

Kronomyth 1.0: Roxbury music.

4AD was a company that released preciously packaged albums by bands (Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins) that seemed to be aimed at angry or deeply disenchanted women. At least, I never found their roster that appealing. The Pixies, however, were a different story. They immediately created buzz among the boys for their aggressive sound and straight-out strangeness. A lot of girls dug Pixies too, so I’m not trying to create a division here, just pointing out that Come On Pilgrim didn’t come through the usual channels.

Thus explained how their mini debut (the album runs around 25 minutes) didn’t create a major crush of attention. Once Surfer Rosa hit, well, the cat was out of the bag; you couldn’t ignore a song like “Gigantic” or “Where Is My Mind?” You could ignore a song like “Caribou” or “I’ve Been Tired” but, given that Pixies only released a handful of records in their lifetime, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t sop every drop of them up.

Their debut, which featured demo tracks recorded in Roxbury plus a little lipstick, already finds many of their signature traits in place: Frank Black’s furious vocals and weird sense of humor, supernatural subject matter (“Caribou” is about reincarnation), Kim Deal’s lagging harmonies and Joey Santiago’s listing lead guitar. (No disrespect to David Lovering, who was always a fine drummer, but I don’t have a catchy adjective to go with his drumming.) These days, listeners will likely encounter Come On Pilgrim at the tail end of a Surfer Rosa CD and, honestly, a good half of them probably stop the disc after “Caribou.” Not that Pilgrim isn’t an interesting start, but you don’t need to go any further than “Vamos” to see how much better they sounded with a top-tier producer and some money behind them.

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Original LP Version

A1. Caribou
A2. Vamos
A3. Isla de Encanta
A4. Ed Is Dead
B1. The Holiday Song
B2. Nimrod’s Son
B3. I’ve Been Tired
B4. Levitate Me

The Players

Black Francis (vocals, guitars), David Lovering (drums), Mrs. John Murphy (bass, vocals), Joey Santiago (lead guitars). Produced by Gary Smith; engineered by Paul Kolderie.

The Pictures

Art direction and design by Vaughan Oliver. Photographs by Simon Larbalestier.

The Plastic

Released on mini-elpee on September 28, 1987 in the US (Rough Trade, ROUGH US 43) and the UK (4AD, MAD 709).

  1. Re-issued with Surfer Rosa on 2-for-1 compact disc in the UK (4AD, GAD 803 CD) and South Africa (Just, CDJUST 229).

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