The Pixies‘ latest video kicks off benignly enough: The camera focuses on what looks like some otherworldly landscape – or more likely a stretch of California desert – until it focuses on the band’s guitarist, Joey Santiago, hiking across the rocks, hunched over in tattered jeans. For a song called “What Goes Boom,” it’s mostly pretty dull – until about the 2:29 mark when it makes good on the title. It’s a visual that fits well with the song’s galloping, fuzzy guitar riff and frontman Black Francis’ gnashed-teeth calls-to-arms like, “Are we gonna get rocking?”
In an interview with NPR, which premiered the clip, the directors of “What Goes Boom” made no qualms about exploding Santiago. “Our original vision for the ‘What Goes Boom’ video was to create an homage to a central, dramatic scene in Star Wars,” Jonathan Furmanski and Matthew Galkin said jointly. “But after that idea proved a bit too costly to produce, we decided the next best thing was to blow up Joey Santiago in the desert – the compromises we make for our art.”
The song comes off the group’s recent EP-1, four new tracks they released following the departure of founding bassist Kim Deal. The guitarist described the songwriting process of “What Goes Boom” to NPR as a collection of all the sounds he’s been coming up with, “with me going shithouse on the guitar.” He also describes the music as “ballsy” with “balls-out playing.” Similarly, Black Francis likened “What Goes Boom” to something heavier. “It’s got kind of a metal riff which I think that, on occasion, we all really enjoy playing, even though we’re not a metal band,” he said. He also curiously said the song is about “a girl, a girl who plays the bass guitar,” but he never specified whether the girl in the lyrics, named “Grace” in the song, was fictitious or maybe a past acquaintance.
In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Pixies discussed Deal’s departure, which occurred during the time the group was working on EP-1. “For three or four days, we were in mourning,” said drummer David Lovering. “But we didn’t have time to keep doing that because we had this studio booked and lot of overdubs to record. We just rolled up our sleeves and said, ‘We might as well finish this.'”