The Pixies reunited in 2004 for the sake of nostalgia and money. There can't be much doubt over this. They never hinted at new music (apart from the bizarre one-off soundtrack single "Bam Thwok") and unashamedly toured Doolittle to within an inch of its life. Last Friday, entirely apropos of nothing except perhaps a recent revival in the Breeder's fortunes with the 20th anniversary tour of Last Splash, Kim Deal quit a band that hasn't played a gig since late 2011.
The whole situation is pretty strange. Even if we accept that the Pixies split up again in 2011 (which, if they did, means Kim Deal quit a band that doesn't really exist anymore), they were still together for roughly the same amount of time as their original run of 1986-1993. What to make of a band whose nostalgia reunion tours lasted the same length of time as period when they were relevant and producing new music?
Having seen them a few times on the later jaunt (most notably in 2004 during their first return to the UK, a country that has venerated them as much, if not more, than the US) they seemed genuinely enthused to be up there, perhaps powered by the kick of the new. I can't speak for how they seemed on later tours, although the "Lost Cities" jaunt, in which they covered US cities they'd never played the whole of Doolittle to before, does not suggest a stream of fresh ideas.
I'm not sure what a Pixies line-up with no Kim Deal would even look like, as I don't think anyone's ever considered someone else wielding that bass guitar, but this is surely the acid test of how committed the remaining Pixies are to their reunion. Can they possibly recruit a new bassist to a band that last released new music in 1993 and has been inactive since 2011? Either this is the end for the reformed Pixies, in which case no one can possibly complain about a reunion run which, although it died a quiet and peaceful death, enabled a new generation to see a legendarily influential band whose influence grew and grew in the decade since they had disbanded at the top of their game (well, alright, Trompe Le Monde wasn't perfect), or this is a fresh beginning.
You could see some bands that have a decent amount of member turnover happily finding a replacement, but the Pixies?! They're Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and David Lovering. I am mildly appalled at the thought of a Pixies line-up that doesn't consist of those four people, as if a member of my family had just quit the entire family overnight. Given Francis' prodigious solo output even while the Pixies were back together (especially the fantastic Bluefinger), I suspect that the other major songwriter doesn't really have the appetite for the Pixies any more, and so this may well be the last we'll see of them.
The big question for me is whether they'll announce the end or sit in cold storage forever, the prospect of the new material the fans once clamored for still incredibly faint but still there, as if one day Francis might just whip out a new Pixies album. Maybe Deal, whose relationship with Francis is legendarily bad, was the last stumbling block to new Pixies material? Has Deal quit on the eve of fresh recording sessions? Has she quit because she suddenly remembered she was actually still in the band? There's a chance we'll never know, and a chance that everything might be revealed tomorrow.
Really, I think Kim Deal quitting the reformed Pixies leaves one of the most important bands of the last thirty years at a crossroads. Is this the shock to the heart that splutters the whole thing back to life (but in a way that amputates one of the limbs), or is it the final nail in the coffin? I suspect the latter, but I'm so very ready to be surprised. So ready.