Nostalgia Tracks: Riding Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” for a Summer, 20 Years Later

Pixies © 1980s
Pixies © 1980s

In the section Nostalgia Tracks, team members discuss their favorite songs – ones with which they have a deep connection. In this latest installment, contributing writer Jonny Shapiro discusses his connection with Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation.”

Pixies offered a different kind of cool well after their first releases, especially with 1989’s “Wave of Mutilation.”
Stream: “Wave of Mutilation” – Pixies

Nostalgia is poison. I’m not talking Bret Michaels. I’m talking that bubbly green stuff someone slips into your Granny Smith. That stuff that makes you think about ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, ex-best friends. People you’ll never see again, places you’ll never be again, and times you’ll never have again. Nostalgia’s a bad habit.

But God dammit, do I love Pixies. And if I can’t have one without the other, gimme Black Francis.

Pixies came around in the late ’80s. I didn’t come around until the early ’90s. So, about 20 years after its release, “Wave of Mutilation” was played through the backyard speakers for me and my summer crew by a buddy’s Gen X dad. If our non-ironic tendency towards grunge rock a generation late hadn’t been solidified yet, Frank Black’s surf rock jam sealed our fate.

Doolittle - Pixies
Doolittle – Pixies

“Wave of Mutilation” is carried by distorted guitar that riffs into the first verse and cheers through the chorus. The song is messy power chords and quick snares that make for excellent care-free summer pop-punk. It has the surreal lyrics typical for a Pixies song and tells a punk-rock, James and the Giant Peach-type fairy tale of triumph. “Cease to resist giving my goodbye,” Black Francis whispers. Then, “Drive my car into the ocean / You’ll think I’m dead, but I sail away.

Cease to resist, giving my goodbye
Drive my car into the ocean
You’ll think I’m dead, but I sail away
On a wave of mutilation
A wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation

The fuller guitar continues into the second verse as Black Francis sings about his adventures riding the eponymous wave: “I’ve kissed mermaids, rode the El Nino/Walked the sand with the crustaceans.”

The trademark soft-loud-soft of the track was perfect for pumping through the car stereo with the windows down all summer. During the verse, my friends and I cracking jokes and spitting out ideas for the night, before spinning the dial to MAX for the chorus.

I’ve kissed mermaids, rode the El Nino
Walked the sand with the crustaceans
Could find my way to Mariana
On a wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation

Listening to music that was popular before we were born gave us the independence we craved. It put us in our own world, gave us our own definition of “cool.” While everyone else was listening to Bruno Mars and Katy Perry (both of whom, in my, ahem, later years, I’ve come to enjoy), we were playing whiffle ball to lo-fi, washed out surf rock.

That summer, we exhausted Doolittle. We banged our heads to “Debaser.” We smoked cheap weed to “I Bleed.” “Wave of Mutilation” and the rest of Doolittle was the soundtrack for a group of kids 20 years after its release. And we couldn’t get enough of it.

Wave of Mutilation - Pixies
Wave of Mutilation – Pixies

When I say nostalgia is poison, that’s not to say it’s all bad. Jim Beam is poison, but I’ll have it by the glass if offered. Nostalgia can induce powerful reflection, or it can draw you to music from before your time.

Nostalgia’s often inseparable from our fondest memories, and for music fans, those memories are generally tied to songs or artists. “Wave of Mutilation” reminds me of summer as a teenager and everything that came with it. All these things – summers, friends, Pixies – helped shape the person I am today, and it’s not a failure of strength to give in and simply remember the past, good times and bad.

But at some point, stop daydreaming and play the damn song. Pump it to MAX while you’re at it.

Stream: “Wave of Mutilation” – Pixies

— — — —

Doolittle - Pixies

Connect to Pixies on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Pixies

:: Stream Pixies ::

Written By
More from Jonny Shapiro
Premiere: Lady Clementine’s Fantastic Party Explores the Fog of the National Ethos in “American Dream”
With a faded sound and dramatic lyrics, Lady Clementine’s Fantastic Party dives...
Read More