Review: loudQUIETloud – A film about The Pixies
In 2004, Boston born rock band The Pixies reformed after 11 years apart. The Pixies are the Vincent Van Goch of Alternative Rock music. Achieving modest success when they were together their legacy grew and grew in the years since they split. Kurt Cobain famously stated that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was his attempt to write a Pixies song, and David Bowie has since called them “the band of the eighties” (maybe you could have said it at the time, Dave?). Various tensions in the band, mainly between lead singer Frank Black and bass player Kim Deal caused a schism in the band and they parted on pretty unfriendly terms in 1993.
loudQUIETloud – A film about The Pixies follows the band on their reunion tour, documents the initial split and explores the decision to reunite and tour again. For a fan of the band, and of music in general, it’s fascinating seeing where these people have ended up, both in terms of careers and their personal lives.
If the film has a narrator it’s Black himself. The film is intercut with him candidly recounting the reasons for the split and the decision to reform. Black seems to have taken a huge helping of humble pie in the years away from the band. In the band’s heyday, he was notoriously controlling to the point of narcisism. He famously banned Deal from fronting any more songs after Gigantic, a song she wrote and sang lead on, became popular. Here he seems far more subdued and accomodating but at the same time quite aware of that reputation. When asked who made the first call to get back together he shouts “Well it was MY band so it was MY decision, right?” then chuckles to himself.
The crux of the film is about the people rather than the pixies and that focus highlights not the relationship between Black and Deal but rather the erratic behaviour of the band’s drummer Dave Lovering. When Lovering describes how he felt when he got the news that The Pixies were reforming the look on his face is heartbreaking and he wears his child like grin for the whole film. It’s clear the split hit him the hardest and in the wake of some very difficult personal issues Lovering slipped into substance abuse. After a particular episode on stage Black confronts him, advising he seek help and Deal gently warns him that valium is a very hard drug to come down from, “Well I’d better switch to heroin then!” he jokes. Nobody laughs.
Deal herself is talking from experience. By 2004 she was on the end of a stint in rehab combating alcoholism. She is on the other side of the addiction and that’s where the heart of this story lies. In the past such personal issues sank the band, but this new model is a closer unit. Rather than call the reunion a failed experiment the band get behind each other. Director Steven Cantor wisely shifts the focus away from the music to concentrate on the relationships within this rather disfunctional family unit.
There is a peculiar enjoyment to be had watching these pioneers of rock going about their, now, less than rock and roll routines; Black takes his son to the aquarium, Lovering performs his magic and lead guitarist Joey Santiago attends his wife’s ultrasound. But of course that’s the point, these four people have moved on but passion and nostalgia brought them back together.
loudQUIETloud is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of four musicians who simply remembered what they loved doing. It isn’t a film about the music or even the band, it’s a film about the the individuals… who just so happened to change rock music.