A Film About the Pixies--The Guild Cinema is opening up its theater this week to a documentary called loudQUIETloud. In it, we get an all-access pass to the Pixies’ 2004 reunion tour through Canada, Europe and the United States. Most importantly, we get a look at what we've long suspected the Pixies are really like: A dysfunctional family of carnies. Step right up!
There's Charles Thomas, also known as Frank Black (or Black Francis), looking rather like a shar-pei. The differences between Charles and his alterego are striking. (Perhaps because we’ve never really met the real man before this.) Frank is large, dynamic and expressive in his music--so much so that, if bottled up, he might explode like one of his beloved volcanos. (Frank is an amateur geologist, remember.) By contrast, Charles is laconic, metering out a few choice words when the mood hits him. Whereas Frank is a prolific, staggering genius, Charles is just a very smart guy from Boston.
That lumbering, chain-smoking figure to the side there is Kim Deal. She's a handsome fellow and recently sober--just one year at the time of the filming. You'll notice Kim is drinking an alarming number of nonalcoholic beers; even with breakfast, it appears. (Alcoholics call this "white-
Behold geeky Dave Lovering, Pixies drummer turned semiprofessional magician. When his father dies of cancer during the filming, Dave adds escapism to his bag of tricks. And then there's Joey "Rock Me Joe" Santiago. He's got a nice little family and another beautiful kid on the way. Joey appears to be the most "normal" one in the Pixies circus, but his perpetually knitted brow signals he's got his share of inner turmoil.
The documentary provides a few candid nuggets you'll savor long after you've left the theater. In one of the earliest--and most memorable--scenes in the film, the band gets together for their first practice in more than a decade. Only they've forgetten how the song "Hey" goes. Charles summons an iPod. The Pixies bow their heads and listen to an mp3 of themselves. It's a surreal moment.
Charles Thomas (or is it Frank Black?) has huffed about the film exaggerating the tension between band members, but the film is too undramatic to substantiate such claims. What loudQUIETloud really does is dole out two things most Pixies fans would have never had the chance to experience themselves--live concerts (excellent footage from stops along the tour are smartly woven into the documentary) and a glimpse into the disturbingly normal personalities that united, fueled, broke up and reunited one of the most musically satisfying bands of all time.