x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Album review: Pixies – Indie Cindy

The trailblazing Boston quartet release their first studio album in more than two decades.

From left, Pixies' Joey Santiago, Black Francis, Paz Lenchantin and David Lovering. Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Coachella / AFP
From left, Pixies' Joey Santiago, Black Francis, Paz Lenchantin and David Lovering. Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Coachella / AFP

Pixies

Indie Cindy 

(Pixiesmusic/PIAS)

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Watching many survivors of the late 1980s/early 1990s alternative rock boom stumble around the modern musical landscape is a rather distressing experience – it’s akin to viewing time-travelling cavemen in a world that has long since moved on.

But the Pixies, who re-formed in 2003 to tour the world after acrimoniously splitting a decade earlier, were always more than another set of scruffy alt rockers.

The multimillion-selling, trailblazing Boston quartet were a rare example where the epithet “influential” fit. They were so beloved by Kurt Cobain, indeed, that the late Nirvana leader credited the writing process behind Smells Like Teen Spirit as his attempt to “rip off the Pixies”.

This first studio album in more than 20 years – a collation of new material all previously released as three comeback EPs over the past seven months – is somewhat significant in certain circles, then. What Goes Boom lays the groundwork for what follows, with its insistent hook imploring us to “make some room” over a tub-thumping three-and-a-half minutes, while Blue Eyed Hexe opens with an almost ZZ Top swagger.

It’s the lead track from EP3, Bagboy, that will send fans nostalgically dashing back to previous cult classics tracks such as Debaser, however.

Their lead singer Frank “Black Francis” Black’s typically eccentric non-sequiturs, the chanted, elliptical repetitions of “cover your breath” and an almost-angelic chorus conspire to mark it vintage Pixies. Granted, the band are poorer for the loss of their original bassist Kim Deal, whose off-kilter harmonies and lead-vocal cameos defined several of their finest moments (see Gigantic).

But despite filling his interim years with a dizzying total of solo projects, Black sounds far from the bottom of his lyrical well, flitting from yelps to half-spoken verses in signature style. And Joey Santiago’s trebly guitar lines still appealingly arrow through the air.

Perhaps it’s because the Pixies haven’t attempted to fix what was never musically broken, or that they have have maintained their lineage of tuneful discordance that masks often-troubling subject matter, or the fact that they’ve reunited with their favoured producer Gil Norton, that Indie Cindy feels more of a continuation than a comeback.

While it doesn’t quite hit the perfection of the Pixies’ past, after two decades-plus in the recording wilderness, that is no mean feat in itself. 

aworkman@thenational.ae