Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin’s entertaining documentary follows the 2004 reunion tour of The Pixies across North America and Europe. The tour is built on an icy foundation: the group disbanded in 1992 following six heady years and had not been in contact following their break-up.
But the dozen years apart were hardly fruitful: Kim Deal enjoyed a brief post-Pixie success with The Breeders before seeing her life derailed with stints in rehab, David Lovering abandoned music altogether to work as a magician while Joey Santiago and Charles Thompson relied heavily on Pixies royalties while trying (and failing) to scratch out solo careers.
The tour itself is not the most pleasant experience at first – a particularly memorable moment comes early in the odyssey as the band waits backstage in a room before a show without acknowledging each other (Santiago and Thompson play with their cell phones, Deal chain smokes and Lovering recaptures his drumming skills by using a chair as a practice instrument).
On stage, however, The Pixies recapture the vocal appeal that made them alt-rock deities in the late 1980s. It’s a shame the film doesn’t spend more time with the band on stage, as their performances (particularly the brilliantly eerie “Caribou”) are electrifying. Wisely, Cantor and Galkin do not offer comparisons between footage and recordings of the band in their prime and their output today – the film’s talk of old magic gets a magnetic payoff when the music starts anew.
If the film skirts around the roots of the 1992 rupture, it deserves kudos for its bluntness and honesty. Cantor and Galkin offer unguarded and often harsh views of what life has in store for aging rockers: receding hairlines and bank accounts, dealing with the after-effects of youthful self-abuse, and hoping to reconnect with the kinetic energy that made the rock experience so intoxicating in the first place. Even those unfamiliar with The Pixies will be enchanted with the raw power and memorable music presented here.