Coming more than 10 years after an acrimonious breakup, the Pixies' reunion tour was called "Pixies Sell Out," a cheeky reference to their instantly sold-out shows and the blunt reality that they're doing it for the money. No one should begrudge them the latter: It's one thing for bands to crash on couches and blow the door proceeds on beer and greasy spoons at the beginning of their careers, but once they get into their 30s and 40s, there are bills to pay. For fans of the seminal alt-rock quartet, the Pixies' reunion was momentous, but in the solid behind-the-scenes documentary loudQuietloud, the band comes across as considerably more muted in its enthusiasm. While there are no big meltdowns, the members don't really function that well as a unit, and by all indications, they wouldn't spend another minute together if the tour weren't refilling the depleted accounts that royalties can no longer cover.
A nice balance of well-photographed live footage and backstage anti-drama, loudQuietloud is probably the only all-access (or part-access, anyway) recording of the '04 tour, and it's valuable for that alone. Following the Pixies from their first rehearsal through the last night of their tour-ending New York City stint, the film contrasts the fans' passion and energy with the band members' cool professionalism. They all have reasons for distraction: Frontman Charles Thompson (a.k.a. Frank Black) and guitarist Joey Santiago both have wives and children back home; bassist Kim Deal, accompanied by her twin sister/sole confidante Kelley, is only one year removed from drug and alcohol rehabilitation; and drummer David Lovering is dogged by a Valium addiction that nearly derails the tour. When they aren't performing together, they retreat into solo projects: Thompson looks for a new label for his Frank Black records, Deal works on songs for her band The Breeders, Santiago labors over a independent-movie score, and Lovering practices his magic act.
The documentary dashes any lingering hope that Pixies would ever record a new album, even though it makes no definitive statement to that effect. Whatever serious issues they might have had with each other in the past seem to have been tabled for now—indeed, they aren't ever hostile or even unkind in the whole film—but they don't exactly come across as a family, either. Make no mistake: Theirs is a mercenary reunion, and one they've paid plenty of dues to deserve.