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Reviews

Pixies
Various EPs John Freeman , January 15th, 2014 10:44

First, a disclaimer: Pixies are my favourite ever band and Surfer Rosa my favourite ever album. If you pushed me into a ridiculously tight corner, I'd tell you 'Bone Machine' is my favourite ever song. Or maybe 'River Euphrates' or 'Gouge Away' or 'Levitate Me'. Their 1989 gig at Leeds Polytechnic is still one the greatest shows I've ever seen. And I've been lucky enough to meet and interview Black Francis. He was totally lovely; charming, witty and genuinely fun to be around and shredded the notion that you should never meet your heroes.

I'm a simple sort and have grown to accept the idea of the Pixies' catalogue of work as complete – a virtually perfect run of genre-defining noise from the life-changing Come On Pilgrim to the mighty, but ever-so-slightly flawed, final album Trompe Le Monde. I've never needed them to release any new songs. I'm happy and replete.

But they have, and before last year, after reforming in 2003 to effectively become a touring band, they'd only released one new song. It was called 'Bam Thwok', and unfortunately doused simmering fears with the petrol of disappointment.

However, and hats off to their innate desire to create, Pixies have recently birthed a whole set of new songs. Some of these were recorded in Wales last year, during sessions that preceeded Kim Deal's sudden resignation, and have now produced a single, 'Bag Boy', and – with last week's release – two EPs (the imaginatively-titled EP1 and EP2).

Aside from the slightly silly title and the fact that Jeremy Dubs (singer with bands The Bennies and Bunnies) had clearly been drafted in to sing the song's chorus just like the departed Deal might have, 'Bagboy' was a winner. It sounded reassuringly beefy and possessed a hook the size of Holland.

And then, one morning last September, EP1 appeared out of the blue ether(net), containing four more new Pixies songs; precisely double their output of the previous 21 years. It was a mixed bag - the gentle insistence of the opening 'Andro Queen' sounded like a (very good) Bossanova-era b-side and 'What Goes Boom' was snarly and jagged and did in fact go 'BOOM!'

However, 'Indie Cindy' was muddled and disjointed and more like a Francis solo career off-cut, while 'Another Toe' was a big, soppy, radio-friendly pop song – a perfectly acceptable slice of guitar pop but a suggestion that new Pixies were prepared to trade-in their fire and brimstone DNA.

And the new material keeps coming. The New Year has brought EP2. Recorded last October, and with producer Gil Norton (who produced the band's final three albums) back at the helm, EP2 immediately deliveres. The sexy-as-hell 'Blue Eyed Hexe' became easily the best new Pixies track. It seethed and screamed and allowed the peerless Joey Santiago to fire adrenaline riffs at will on a track that's apparently a tale about a “witch from the North West of the UK.” The fluid, Moog-pedal driven 'Magdelena' is another gem - snaking, mysterious and pointing tantalisingly to new sonic adventures.

The three remaining Pixies have now released almost an albums-worth of new songs. The good ones outnumber the bad and, to be fair, when Pixies played a blistering 39-song set in Manchester in November, all the new material benefitted from a slug of live viscera, while songs like 'Blue Eyed Hexe' and 'Magdalena' hint at a fascinating next phase for this most cherished of bands.

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