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Watch the Pixies Crack Open Offbeat ‘Silver Snail’ for NPR

Pixies, "Silver Snail," NPR 'Tiny Desk Concert,' "Greens and Blues," "Monkey Gone to Heaven"

The revived Pixies have been playing good-sized theaters and festival gigs, but they set up in a small room, behind a box of Altoids, for NPR‘s Tiny Desk Concert series. The stripped-down, three-song set from the pioneering alternative rockers helps uncover similarities between the newer material and the band’s early classics.

Notably, the group performed the previously unreleased “Silver Snail.” Black Francis introduced the song as being about an experience in a rehearsal space in Somerville, Massachusetts, but the acoustic setting, combined with new member Paz Lenchantin’s violin and Francis’ idiosyncratic lyrics, gave the proceeding a ramshackle White Album feel. Though the tune has come up in recent concerts, this is our most “official” glimpse of it yet.

Of course, neither “Silver Snail” nor an unplugged take on EP-2‘s “Greens and Blues” could compete with 1989 Doolittle standby “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” Still, given the intimate space, and Francis’ dry acknowledgement (echoing a Pixies SPIN interview) that the lyric “seven” was there even in the classic song only to rhyme with “heaven,” it’s easier to take each of these chronologically disparate songs as part of a single, strange ouevre. At the end of the video, an off-screen voice asks the Pixies if they’re happy. “We’re happy,” Francis replies.

The Pixies have another low-key session scheduled for February 18, when they’ll play an in-studio at Seattle’s KEXP.