With these raw wounds plastered over, Trompe Le Monde limped on. The recording was unsurprisingly fraught. “We tracked separately,” Santiago recalls dryly. “90 per cent of the time, when I was doing my part, I’d be the only one in there, apart from Gil.”
“There was animosity,” Norton recalls. “‘You said this’ and ‘you said that’. I think Kim had got drunk and said something in a press release sometime, off the record when she thought it was over, and it hurt Charles. Then it gets blown out of proportion, when everyone’s nerve-ends are out. They were always polite, but there was an under-current of hostility. People were hurt; Kim was hurt. It was frustrations over a period of years. Where you just get sick of someone. It wasn’t easy. I was really pushing Charles about lyrics on that album, and he was being a little bit lazy, having difficulty finishing things off. I remember him getting quite angry about that, like I was hassling him. I didn’t know what the songs were about half the time. I was just doing landscapes, collages of sound.”
Trompe Le Monde sounds fascinating today, an experimental surf-noir bridge to another album that never came. But its NME review in September 1991 shared its pages with reviews for Screamadelica and Nevermind – notice that the times were at last overtaking them. Nirvana asked to support them that year, but Lovering vetoed it, knowing that this time they would be in the Muses’ position, when the Pixies had been young and hot. Instead they made a blunder in the opposite direction, supporting U2 in a catastrophic trek across America.
“I think they might have lasted a little longer if they hadn’t done that tour,” says Craft. “If you ever wanted it to be made fairly clear to you that you weren’t really that important – most people there didn’t even know who they were. That brought home to all of them that if you’ve got to do that sort of stuff to be a big international artist – well, they didn’t want to. On the last UK tour, they didn’t speak at all. I was at the aftershow party at the end of that tour when Kim spoke to Charles. She was just thanking him for the tour, in a really formal way. It was obvious they hadn’t communicated for a very long time.”
The plug was pulled in January 1993. Their fans found out during an interview supporting his first solo album Frank Black, on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 5 show, Hit The North. Of the band, only Santiago was notified in person. “It was pretty short,” he recalls. “He just said, ‘Oh, yeah, I split up the Pixies.’ I felt a little bit numb. I didn’t know what to think. I just thought, OK, it’s the time, I guess. I don’t have to wonder when that going to happen any more.”
“There’s been a lot of criticism of Charles for the way he split them up,” Craft admits. “But he made the right decision, because he realised they weren’t going to get any better. And he should have been thanked for that.”
Thompson has his regrets. “I wish we could have had some cool guru in our midst that would have said, ‘Hey, you guys, why don’t you take six months off?’ It’s like you’re always in a bus together, or in a studio, and there’s no outlet for the tension between people, so eventually you go, ‘Fuck this.’ If there had been an outlet for everyone’s egos, maybe we wouldn’t have broken up at all.”