IN THEIR original incarnation, the Pixies made four albums, at least two of which - 1987's Surfer Rosa and 1989's Dolittle - are high watermarks of indie/alternative rock, which continue to echo through the generations.
Live, the band still have it, and then some, but their recorded legacy casts a shadow new material struggles to get out from under and will always be made compare unfavourably with. However they don't need to do it to themselves. The riff to 'All I Think About Now' from Head Carrier, written and sung by new bassist Paz Lenchantin, more than recalls 'Where Is My Mind'. Tethering it so directly to one of their most iconic songs is a weight the track does not need - a pity, as this poignant ode to still being in love with an ex is one of the best and most immediate songs here.
However it is one of the few mis-steps on this second post-reunion album. Having re-imagined the quiet/loud dynamic established by Led Zeppelin and taken indie/alternative into new directions is more innovation than most bands ever manage, so to expect them to reinvent the wheel a third time is unreasonable. Also unreasonable is to expect them to sound and behave like they were when they were twentysomethings.
Head Carrier is solid, with a couple of real highlights, and does not disgrace the legacy. 'Baals Back' and 'Um Chagga Lagga' have some of the old, unhinged madness; this pulverising 'Tenement Song', dare I say it, shows Lenchantin can ably handle the vocal duties/foil role of Kim Deal, and would make any essential Pixies' Spotify playlist; while the short, sharp, jangly power pop of 'Plaster of Paris' is an understated highlight.