Pixies – Come On Pilgrim

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  • For only the second time ever, here are Hot Stampers for The Pixies blistering debut, earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – quiet vinyl too  
  • Big, full-bodied, tonally correct, this copy impressed us with its grungy post-punk power trio ENERGY, the sound that rocked the world in 1987
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Gary Smith’s less-is-more production allows the full, primal impact of the band’s combustive sound to blast through, offering what may be the purest version of their perverse punk-pop. An electrifying debut, Come on Pilgrim remains as raw, vibrant, and engaging as the day it was recorded.”

Not your standard audiophile fare, but for those of you who love The Pixies, we are confident you have never heard this album sound remotely as good as it does on the killer Shootout Winning Hot Stamper pressing (from 1987, the same year Better Records went into business(!).

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1987
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Come On Pilgrim

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Best Practices

Recently we did a shootout for a record we knew little about, this one, using a group of pressings we had earlier auditioned and which had impressed us with their sound quality.

First we cleaned them as carefully as we could. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Using a few specific passages of music, once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, it will soon become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A1 Caribou 3:14
A2 Vamos 2:54
A3 Isla De Encanta 1:41
A4 Ed Is Dead 2:30

Side Two

B5 The Holiday Song 2:15
B6 Nimrod’s Son 2:17
B7 I’ve Been Tired 3:01
B8 Levitate Me 2:38

AMG  Review

Amazingly, the Pixies’ 1987 debut EP, Come on Pilgrim, was compiled from the quickly, inexpensively made demo tape — paid for by Black Francis’ dad — the band made at Boston’s legendary Fort Apache studio soon after they formed. 4AD was so taken with the tape that they released eight of the songs as this mini-album.

It’s easy to see why they were so impressed: The Pixies’ essential sound — Francis’ unearthly shriek of a voice, David Lovering’s propulsive drumming, Joey Santiago’s insistent, prickly guitar playing, and Kim Deal’s sugar-and-sandpaper vocals and steady basslines — arrives fully formed on songs like the bouncy, yet twisted, surfer-girl ode “Ed Is Dead.”

Influences like ’80s college rock peers the Violent Femmes, the Stooges, Lou Reed, and hardcore punk crop up on songs like “I’ve Been Tired,” the group’s surreal take on sexual frustration, and “Isla de Encanta.”

Most importantly, the EP introduces the spooky, theatrical vision the group brought to their simple guitar-bass-drums lineup. Francis’ lyrical fetishes for sex, death, and religion and his twisted sense of humor crop up on every track, from the eerie opener “Caribou,” which urges listeners to “Reeeeepent!,” to the final song, “Levitate Me,” which borrows Christian folksinger Larry Norman’s catchphrase: “Come on pilgrim, you know he loves you!” “The Holiday Song” and “Nimrod’s Son” provide voyeuristic, back-to-back glimpses at incest, as well as the priceless lyric, “My sister held me close and whispered to my bleeding head/You are the son of a motherf*cker” (from “Nimrod’s Son”).

Gary Smith’s less-is-more production allows the full, primal impact of the band’s combustive sound to blast through, offering what may be the purest version of their perverse punk-pop. An electrifying debut, Come on Pilgrim remains as raw, vibrant, and engaging as the day it was recorded.

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