Album review - The Pixies

WHEN THE Pixies reformed a number of years ago and started touring again, the welcome was warm and the verdict positive.

Their stage presence and prowess remained intense and thrilling, with that bravura performance at Primavera Sound in 2010 serving to remind and underline why the Pixies are a high water mark of indie/alternative rock and a continual, potent influence on contemporary bands. And then...

First, iconic bassist Kim Deal quit, then Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering announced they had recorded and would be releasing new material. On so many levels it seemed wrong - a Pixies without Kim Deal was inconceivable, while new material would surely sully the reputation of such masterpieces as Surfer Rosa and Doolittle.

Yet it must be stressed that as far back as 2004, it was precisely Kim Deal who argued the band should record new songs because it would “piss off the purists”. Touché to my preciousness! It was time to approach the new music with an open mind.

Indie Cindy collects the material released on the recent EP-1, EP-2, and EP-3. The music as presented on those EPs had its moments, but appeared unsatisfactory given the sequencing of the songs and the limited nature of the EP format.

What a difference though when those 12 songs are grouped together as an album, with an attention and care as to how they should flow and work together. What results is an album that is not only consistent, but surges with energy, conviction, and a point to prove.

Indie Cindy roars out of the traps with the pounding ‘What Goes Boom’. The classic ‘quiet/loud’ dynamic is employed to good effect, not as a pale imitation of bygone achievements, but because it works for the song in question, giving listeners breathing space between the near-metal riffing.

If, at times, you find yourself thinking Indie Cindy reminds you of certain Pixies sounds and songs of before, it’s not the Pixies becoming their own tribute band, it is more that they have always had a distinctive sound and approach, and these traits were always theirs to begin with, nobody else’s. In short, they still ‘got it’.

‘Bagboy’ employs a typically Pixies chorus, but it’s the dramatic guitar chords and the refrain of “Cover your breath, cover your teeth” that gives it power and individuality.

‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ makes a nod towards ‘U-Mass’ with its stop start riff, but the similarities soon disappear as the song stands firmly on its own feet. Black Francis’ blood curdling scream is still intact, as the second verse shows, where, curiously, he also sounds uncannily like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (indeed the song has a touch of the Aussie rockers’ strut, recast for an indie mindset).

The highlight, though, is the Blackbeard referencing ‘Another Toe In The Ocean’, where the ‘quiet/loud’ dynamic is played most subtly, and perhaps most effectively.

The flow between the muted verses, building with the bridge to the chorus, and the guitar refrain which links back to the verse, is thrilling to the point of raising the hairs on the back on your neck. Without hesitation, I believe this song would sit very comfortably alongside the band’s classic material.

Indie Cindy is, of course, nowhere near Surfer Rosa or Doolittle (but then, few albums are). What it is, is arguably a solid, full bodied 45 minutes of quality songwriting, with few weak spots, which was ultimately worth the band’s while, and yours too.

 

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