7. The Pixies
Years active: 1986 - 1993 Influenced: Spoon, Nirvana Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts Jam: "Where Is My Mind?" Wander through existential questions that become alarmingly physical and lean on that backbeat that never quits.
Black Francis (aka Charles Thompson) and his fascination with extraneous subject matter and psychedelia propelled The Pixies to the cutting edge of music in the late '80s. The group reportedly selected their band name at random from the dictionary, deciding they liked the image of mischievous elves only after landing on the word by chance—so even their band name is firmly rooted in indie-ness and obscurity. One of the first groups to use elements of "surf rock" sound that really gained any attention, their album Surfer Rosa for indie label 4AD earned them a bid from major label Elektra by the end of 1988, for whom the recorded albums Doolittle and Bossanova . Tensions between band members—namely Thompson and Deal—marred the group through most of its existence, which eventually resulted in Deal forming several side projects including The Breeders, and Thompson inverting his stage name to Frank Black for solo projects. They released their final album Trompe le Monde in 1991 and toured with U2 the next year, but officially announced their disbanding in 1993. Though their popularity was greater in the UK and Europe, their influence on the American indie scene is undeniable. There would probably be no Nirvana without the noisy missives that The Pixies blasted out—and where would any of us be without the best existential-crisis-self-doubting track "Where Is My Mind?"