Oct 11

The Pixies: “Motorway to Roswell”


When the designer was told to "eyeball" the placement of the background image, he took it very literally…

Hello, and welcome to Pixies Week here at Reselect.com! Or maybe I should be a little more specific and say, welcome to Trompe Le Monde Week! This Saturday (Oct. 8th) will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the Pixies final — and possibly most underrated — studio album, 1991’s Trompe le Monde. Some might say that Bossanova is even more underrated, but since that one is my least favorite of their albums, I would have to disagree (although don’t get me wrong, it’s still an excellent album as well). An “underrated” album is one that is a significant number (x) times better than people typically give it credit for, and I just think Trompe le Monde‘s x factor is greater than Bossanova‘s. It has a lot more Black Francis/Frank Black on it than Kim Deal, which is really its only drawback — otherwise it’s one of the great albums of the ’90s.

So to pay tribute to the genius of the Pixies, I’m featuring only Pixies songs this week, and most of them will be coming from Trompe Le Monde. Truth be told, this is really just a good excuse to play lots of Pixies songs: I’ve been trying to decide which songs of theirs to post here, and just haven’t been able to narrow it down. So I hope you’ll enjoy either reliving your own Pixies fixation or discovering maybe for the first time what all the hubbub is about, why they are often credited with being so influential on the sound of later bands. Or even on their contemporaries — Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was hugely influenced by the Pixies’ frequent “quiet-loud” song dynamic, which went on to shape Nirvana’s sound on Nevermind and beyond (Cobain once told Rolling Stone magazine that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was his attempt at “ripping off the Pixies”).

To kick things off, I’m selecting one of my favorites from Trompe le Monde: “Motorway to Roswell.” It’s a song that grows gradually bigger over the course of its 4+ minutes, and when the piano kicks in around 2 minutes in, it becomes a truly epic tale of an alien on a trip that ends badly (in Roswell, New Mexico’s Area 51, apparently). I love the way the song fades out on that piano — sends a shiver up my spine every time. Frank Black concentrated even more on his interest in aliens and sci-fi on his solo albums, but he never did it better than this.



  2. Teo says:

    I think the song is about an alien that crashes. “ended up in Army crates”

    1. Dave Gershman says:

      You’re right, of course…

  3. Stuart says:

    Frank has said before that he wishes he spend a little more time writing and recording Trompe Le Monde… it’s a great album, and very under-rated. I remember watching a BBC documentary about Pixies a few years ago, and one of the music Journo’s said that by the time Trompe came out, they had lost it. Amazing that someone could think that, as this is a stormer of an album… up there with the rest of the Pixies catalogue (and they are all brilliant).

    Hoping 2012 brings that long awaited Pixies album, would love to hear what they sound like now as individually I am getting a little tired of their solo stuff.

    1. Dave Gershman says:

      I agree, they never “lost it” — the only thing they lost at that point was interest in working together anymore, but that only showed in their concerts at the time. I remember seeing them in 1991 and thinking that they just seemed not to be enjoying themselves on stage. But it didn’t show on the album…they had evolved (and I think Bossanova was a midway point between their earlier and later styles), but it was a fantastic album.

  4. Richard Seaglove says:

    I love this song, and this album. I totally agree that it is the most underrated album of their career. I bought this album on my way home from France trying to spend up my francs at the airport. I have everything they have recorded and seen them live a few times. This is a very well written tribute to the Pixies and a great album.

    1. Dave Gershman says:

      Thanks… You know an album is great when you remember exactly when and where you bought it!

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