By the Numbers: The Pixies

The Pixies

Welcome back to another exciting episode of “By the Numbers”, the article which mathematically proves which album is the pinnacle of an artists’ repertoire. First, let’s recap what I do here. These articles are meant to serve three purposes. The first is to inform consumers unfamiliar with a particular band or artist on where to start. The second purpose is to provide all of those trainspotters with more statistical fodder for their daily lives. The third and final reason is to satisfy my obsessive-compulsive desires so that I might be able to function in the real world. Here’s then, how I do that.

I take each album by a particular artist, and based on the number of albums released, I start whittling down that number to a reasonable sample. Some of the criteria for elimination are wholly justified; some are arbitrary, depending on how I feel that day. For example, look at the “Bowie by the Numbers” article. Since he has over twenty-five album releases, I had to eliminate quite a few to get to my final three comparisons. Throughout every article, I will eliminate EP’s for pure numbers reasons (not enough tracks, not enough points). I also eliminate Greatest Hits packages, live or concert albums, albums of all covers, or any other strange rehash of music that was once on a previous album. I will also immediately eliminate albums that are just plain crappy to begin with and is not worth even trying to judge song by song. In essence, great original full-length albums only! (Also, notice that I gave five extra points to Surfer Rosa as it has less tracks than all of its successors.)

This time around, the mathematicians in the lab are going through the work of that great band out of Massachusetts, the Pixies! Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering are the lab rats that make up this group, and what a group they were / are. They made a big splash with their first EP, Come on Pilgrim in 1987 (which will not be included here per the EP rule). They became one of the biggest post-punk influences in music with Nirvana being the most popular and visible example of those who followed their style. (For more information, see the feature on them on this very website!) But, which of the Pixies’ albums is truly their `best’? Okay all you nerds, computer geeks, and CPA’s, (redundancy again?) let’s crunch some numbers!!

Surfer Rosa
Bone Machine-5
Break My Body-4
Something against You-4
Broken Face-5
River Euphrates-4
Where Is My Mind?-5
Tony’s Theme-5
Oh My Golly!-4
I’m Amazed-4
Brick Is Red-4
(add 5 pts. for having
two less songs)

Total= 63

Debaser = 5
Tame = 5
Wave of Mutilation = 5
I Bleed = 4
Here Comes Your Man = 5
Dead = 4
Monkey Gone to Heaven = 5
Mr. Grieves = 4
Crackity Jones = 3.5
La La Love You = 4.5
No.13 Baby = 4
There Goes My Gun = 4
Hey = 5*
Silver = 3
Gouge Away = 4

Total = 65

Cecilia Ann = 5
Rock Music = 3.5
Velouria = 5
Allison = 5
Is She Weird = 5
Ana = 4
All Over the World = 3
Dig For Fire = 5*
Down to the Well = 3
The Happening = 4
Blown Away = 3
Hang Wire = 4
Stormy Weather = 3
Havalina = 3

Total = 55.5

Trompe Le Monde
Trompe Le Monde-5
Planet of Sound-3.5
Alec Eiffel-5*
The Sad Punk-3
Head On-4 (would have been a 5, but negative points as it’s a cover)
Palace of the Brine-4
Letter to Memphis-4
Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons-3
Space (I Believe In)-4
Subbacultcha-3.5 (good song, but steals too much from Tony’s Theme)
Distance Equals Rate Times Time-3
Lovely Day-3
Motorway to Roswell-4 (obvious bridge to “Frank Black”)
The Navajo Know-3

Total= 57

So, as you can see, as I would have told you even before doing the math, Doolittle is the best Pixies album with Surfer Rosa a close second. As Come on Pilgrim is a great EP, and is sometimes available packaged with Surfer Rosa, that combination definitely takes the driver’s seat as a first purchase. And with great point totals for all four albums, the entire catalog is well worth purchasing! So … if you don’t own the entire Pixies collection, go get it! Now, Damnit!!

* denotes the Pixies’ best songs EVER!!

(Mathematician’s Note: If you get a chance to pick up the B-Sides compilation, do it, if just for “Manta Ray”, “Dancing the Manta Ray”, and their cover of “I’ve Been Waiting For You”. (There’s a weird connection there with Bowie as he covered the same Neil Young song AND the Pixies’ “Cactus” on his album Heathen). Also, the Where is My Mind? tribute album is pretty good, but the only real standout is the rendition of “Alec Eiffel” by The Get-Up Kids. They play the hell out of it, especially the drummer.)

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