Slicing up eyeballs….
Debaser – Pixies (1989, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Doolittle’)
There is apparently a little known film from the late 1920s called ‘Un Chien Anadalou’. This film is a little bit unique in that there is no real plot and no one in the films speaks a single word. In it (and I’ve not seen it so you will have to assume that the Internet is correct) a woman prods at a severed hand, whilst it cuts every now and again to a man who appears to be stuffing rotting meat into not one but two grand pianos, which he then drags down a street. As the piano reach a street corner, a nun cycles past – although the nun is a man. Shortly after a man (played by Bunuel) slices up the eyeball of his wife who sits undisturbed by this on a small chair.
In the mid 80s a young chap from Massachusetts called Charles Thompson saw this film and it blew him away. A few years later, Charles Thompson was more famously known as Black Francis and his surf punk band Pixies had written a song inspired by the avant garde surrealist shenanigans of Dali and Bunuel. That song was ‘Debaser’ and it changed rock music for good.
It opens with Kim Deal’s throbbing bassline, which even now 35 years later, is still one of the most spine tinglingly brilliant moments in music. That bassline is joined shortly by another spine tinglingly brilliant moment, the incredible riff which comes courtesy of Joey Santiago and then that is joined by the raspy yelp of Black Francis who hollers:-
“Got Me a Movie…”
It is amazing, incredible, and according to Black Francis, it took ten minutes to write. Ten minutes. This morning it took me eight minutes to make a cup of tea and then a further five minutes to find my keys and another four to remember where I’ve left my jacket. In that time, Black Francis has probably written half an album.
Putting aside the riff, the bassline and the raspy yelp, the next most glorious thing about ‘Debaser’ is the chorus, so simple, yet it is probably the most recognisable and accessible of all of the Pixies songs. Again, it’s Kim Deal though who is the real star as her echo-y backing vocals give the chorus a real sense of magic.
There are of course bundles of other Pixies songs that have one word titles. There are more than enough to make a decent compilation album. Most of their best tracks could be included. Here are just three, the first one was under serious consideration, it would have done very well of course, but as great as it is, its no ‘Debaser’.
Gigantic – Pixies (1988, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Surfer Rosa’)
Caribou – Pixies (1987, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Come on Pilgrim’)
Subbacultcha – Pixies (1987, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Pixies at the BBC’)
Just for those who need to know these things, ‘Debaser’ spent the whole of the vote counting process in the Top Ten, it never dropped below eighth place and had the last two sets of votes gone their way, they would have won the whole thing.