Song 116: Pixies, “Debaser” (1989)

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I have no idea if “Debaser” is supposed to be funny, but I find it hilarious. The way Frank Black starts the song as Luis Buñuel yelling “Got me a movie, I want you to know!”, how Kim Deal sweetly sings “deeebaaaaser” amid the racket, the very fact that Buñuel (or is it Dali? Or Black himself?) wants to grow up to be a debaser. It’s all very silly.

The hipster masses seem to have landed on Surfer Rosa as the Pixies’ masterpiece, and while I like that album a lot (the ghostly “Where Is My Mind?” especially), Doolittle is the one I’ve always loved. With its bouncy chaos and catchy tunes about slicing up eyeballs, the record is like a twisted Beatles album. It’s as if the Monkees sat down and decided to put out some disturbing psychedelia (which I guess they kind of did anyway, but I digress).

“Debaser,” the first track is kind of like Doolittle’s topic sentence. It’s not the catchiest song on the album (that honor goes to “Here Comes Your Man”), but it’s close, and hearing someone yell “slicing up eyeballs!” so early in the proceedings is typically jarring for this collection of songs featuring numerology, gouging away, waves of mutilation, and a creepy-sounding man saying “Hey! Been trying to meet you!” in front of a slinky bassline.

There aren’t many moments in pop music that I like more than when Black sings “Got me a movie, ah-ho-ho-ho!” in the second verse, with only an electric guitar behind him. It’s exhilarating, and I think that’s because it’s so much fun—we’re all complicit to his madness, if only for a few seconds. We all want to be mad geniuses and merry pranksters, and nobody makes this sound as enjoyable as the Pixies.

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