Our most-read article of 2023.
Originally published January 24, 2023.
Your opinions on the discography of the last fifty years interests me about as much as you think it does a middle-aged woman traveling coach to Boston with a L.L. Bean boat tote filled with crackers. I read mild. I read invisible. I read that probably all I listen to is “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead.
It’s easy to assume that I don’t know who Fugazi is. It’s okay, insult me—you can barely grow beards.
Here’s the thing, though: I know who Fugazi is. And you will never grow beards because of the xenoestrogens in your plastic water bottles. Don’t be fooled by my comfortable and supportive footwear, my tie-dye rainbow Crocs; I know a lot about music.
So it was insufferable for me to endure you two loudly opining in the Northeast Regional quiet car on the Velvet Underground’s 1970s New York scene. On DC punk in the 1980s. On trip-hop and Aphex Twin and post-punk and De La Soul and hip-hop and the country revival and New Orleans bounce and Ye and on which bands sucked Nirvana’s teat derivatively. Oh, you went on and on. I felt like I was trapped in one of those podcasts where know-it-all bros one-up each other. But I kept my mouth shut.
However, when you struggled to name the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, I thought, It’s Flea, you total asshats.
Then, as we were pulling out of Newark, one of you shrieked, “High key, dog, why are the Pixies on this Pitchfork ‘Best Albums of All Time’ list? They’re ass. Dog, they’re 100 percent derivative of Nirvana.” All my Gen-X senses started to tingle.
You belittle the Pixies? You diss Black Francis? On the way to Massachusetts? On my gal, the bassist Kim Deal, you didn’t have a crush at Smith College in 1992? Were you not even born?
I leaned over my Amtrak headrest and hissed, “Boyx, that’s cap. You’ve been talking out of your asses since Union Station.”
I continued, “In ‘Five Classic Albums That Wouldn’t Exist Without Pixies’ Surfer Rosa,’ Jochan Embley wrote, ‘Grunge owes so much to Nirvana, but Nirvana owe a great deal to Pixies.’ Kurt Cobain publicly said he was trying to rip off a Pixies song when he wrote ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Nirvana was trying to sound like Pixies, you morons—Death to the Pixies.”
I went on: “Disc one of Death to the Pixies is the random-button scrambling of the Pixies’ studio discs; disc two is a convincing live show that repeats a few of the songs and still doesn’t make you feel that you’ve heard too much. There are, of course, plenty of arguments to be made for the band’s original sequencing, but since the Pixies are as adept at pop hooks as they are at punk screech, the set works to freshen songs you know well — an effective reintroduction to a group that perhaps sounds even greater now than it did when making an LP a year in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Gigantic indeed.”
You looked at me. My hair askew. My eyes blazing behind my +1.25 rainbow readers that, yep, match my Crocs. My seltzer sloshing in my hand. I hoped you were thinking, Holy shit, dog. We’re meeting a real-life strega for the Pixies. Stregas for the Pixies are the rarest, most righteous, ass-kicking, music-knowing motherfuckering fairies from planet ’90s. Josh, I wonder how she’s going to bless us? I don’t know, Jeraboam, but I am sure she will… somehow.
Instead, you said, “Jesus Christ, lady. All right already.” You turned away from me. I heard you mutter, “Damn, dog, that’s one furious grandma.” You put on large puffy headphones and were silent all the way to Providence. There, you disembarked.
I’m sorry. If you had been nice — if you had been like, “Wow, strega, you know things! We judged you incorrectly as boringly into ‘Ripple’ like every other oldster, but we were wrong, you’re an arrogant, loud, obnoxious music knower—you’re one of us,” I would have shared my water crackers with you and intricately detailed the post-Pixies solo careers of Frank Black and twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal.
After you left, a nice lady about my age boarded and asked if your seats were taken. I said, “Only if you have a favorite Pixies song and can defend your reasoning at a volume appropriate to the Amtrak quiet car.” She pulled her readers off the top of her head where they were nestled in the gray bun of her hair and let them hang around her neck on their rainbow-beaded lanyard. She sized me up and said, “‘Gigantic.’”
See, sirs, it’s not so hard to get along with me.
If you do land a podcast—and I sincerely hope you do, because I’m not sure you are good for anything else and I actually, grudgingly, liked your take on Iron Maiden—please consider me. I bring something unexpected to your podcast: the entire audience of Gen-X women in menopause.
Here’s to Blood on the Tracks, boys, the best Dylan album, and don’t argue with me.
Read an interview with author Elizabeth Bastos about writing this letter over on our Patreon page.