To the uninitiated, Pixies was one of those one of a kind bands that, while they didn’t have mainstream success at first, seems to influence just about every important alternative rock band in their wake when they split up in 1993. About a decade later, the band decided to reunite and tour. Frontman Black Francis (also know in his solo career as Frank Black) had gone on record before saying he did not think putting out new music was a good idea, since whenever a band gets back together, it’s never as good as people remember it. So it was surprising when it was announced right after the re-departure of bassist/vocalist Kim Deal that the band was releasing a new EP called EP1, and later EP2. As much as I love this band, I paid it very little mind. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset. Maybe I just expected it to be Frank Black. A few videos were released. I must have picked all the wrong ones. I was only mildly impressed with “Magdelina”, “Snakes” and “Andro Queen”. I may have given “Bagboy” a passing listen, but that was it.
It wasn’t until later, when I heard this would be a full length album that I became more interested. And being the collector I am, when I saw there was a limited edition CD version with a bonus live disc, I went ahead and ordered it. Only then did I go to Spotify, and given the download of EP3 I was sent when I pre-ordered Indie Cindy, I re-ordered all of the EP songs into the album setlist and gave it a proper listen. Now it sounds right. It’s kind of a shame that the first burst of songs contained the least urgency. “What Goes Boom” kicks off the album with the driving angst that I remember. Sure Kim Deal wasn’t there to counter Francis’ manic voice with her sweet counter voice. But the shades of that are still there, and the short lived bassist listed in the liner notes as Ding does a commendable job on bass. The raving loony that ranted through “Debaser” and much of Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa is there on “Indie Cindy” where Francis becomes a deranged beat poet, and the screaming rage of the second half of the hard driving “Blue Eyed Hexe”. The melodies that made us sing along to the same looniness are there in “Another Toe In The Ocean” and “Greens and Blues”. It’s quite unsettling to hear some reviews that have panned the album for sounding like Weezer covering the Pixies, when Weezer *got* what the Pixies were about. Saying in one breath that this doesn’t sound like the band you loved, then in another saying it sounds like the thing you recognize about their music… hmmm. When I put this on, I’m reminded of that weird hard rocking artsy lunacy that wowed my ears all those years ago and it brings a big smile to my face.
Overall, this is a great listen. The production, provided by Gil Norton, the man who helmed the albums from Doolittle forward, is top notch. Unlike many reviewers, I do think this album stands up as a natural progression for the band. Especially considering the 21 years of music evolution that has happened since their last album Trompe le Monde. Of course some of these songs are going to be informed by some of the Frank Black solo albums. Songs like “Silver Snail” may not encapsulate what you think the Pixies should sound like, but they have not been in a time capsule for 21 years. If this were a Frank Black album, it would now be my favorite Frank Black album. Some of these new songs like “Greens and Blues”, “Blue Eyed Hexe” and “Another Toe In The Ocean” have been firmly lodged in my head for weeks and give me a reason to crank the car stereo up whenever given the chance. It is not a 100% perfect album like us longtime fans think all of their studio albums are. Look at Pitchfork’s review of their catalog.. not one of the older albums below 8.3 in their rose-tinted nostalgia and then only an insulting 2.5 on this album. You can’t compete with a memory I guess when your memory is an indie brand you stake your coolness on. But putting nostalgia aside, this is a pretty damn good album. And I keep liking it more with each listen. The songs that I originally thought weren’t as good are paced towards the end, and the tracklisting definitely makes all the difference in how these songs work. In context, those are growing on me. But then I didn’t think all of Trompe le Monde was classic at first either. In many ways I wish the EPs hadn’t been put out. This album has the drive and the crunch that made me like this band in the first place, and to me, that is what matters.
Check out some videos from the album:
“Greens and Blues”:
“Another Toe In The Ocean”
“What Goes Boom”: