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Pixies
Indie Cindy Julian Marszalek , April 25th, 2014 09:54

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The question isn't so much if they should have recorded new material as what took them so bloody long? It's now ten years since Pixies buried the hatchet and took to the road to deliver a reunion tour that did much to enhance their reputation as both true musical innovators and a genuinely fearsome live band. Their 2004 performances at the Brixton Academy were every bit as good, if not better, than their glory years and the collective wave of emotion that engulfed the venue confirmed just how they'd been missed.

Back then, the notion of bands of Pixies' stature and troubled personal history reforming was rather a novelty, and something of a pre-cursor to the heritage sub-genre that has subsequently sprung up, for good or for ill, to dominate the cultural landscape. Somewhat predictably, the intervening years have thrown up varying results as any number of bands got back together to bolster pension plans by trading on their back catalogues whilst seeing their cultural worth diminish as fans simply added these events to a check list marked, "Yeah, seen 'em now – who's next?" Not that all of them have been bad. For this writer, at least, Dinosaur Jr's resurrection has proved to be the most satisfying. Not only did they manage to stay in the same room together without killing each other, they returned on the back of a good album (Beyond) which was then followed up by one of the best of their career, Farm.

Unsurprisingly, these weren't albums that set the world alight in the way that their predecessors did, as the cultural context of the world had shifted since those releases and this is a position Pixies find themselves in with the added burden of a level of anticipation never before experienced thrown in for good measure. The problem with the weight of expectation mouthed from certain quarters is that these voices of dissent are, in the main, from those who weren't there the first time around and are now expecting some kind of generational big bang, hence some frankly reprehensible reviews from across the pond.

The issue with these expectations is that they rarely take into account the context into which the music was first introduced, quite why it resonated so much at the time and just why its ability to weather the intervening years has conferred classic status upon it. Pixies did what they had to do way back then so what exactly is being demanded from them now? Another paradigm shift? To have your perceptions of music altered again? For them to hit the trail and pioneer once more? Forget it - it's not going to happen and if those are your levels of expectation then frankly you don't deserve any of those things – or Pixies for that matter - especially when you should be doing it yourself.

Of course, there's an argument to be made that Pixies should never have bothered. It's now 23 years since the release of Trompe Le Monde, ten years since they got back together again, and such a huge gap in time has denied the chance of musical development that would at least show some kind of evolution - or, if you're really lucky, a second revolution - from there to now. In some ways that evolution is already out there in the shape of Frank Black's solo albums and works with The Catholics, releases by The Breeders and Joey Santiago's sojourn with The Martinis, but these are individual component parts and not the progression of a group.

That said, Pixies' recorded return has thrown up a real conundrum in the shape of the Kim Deal-sized gap stage right. The purists will doubtless throw their arms up in horror whilst blowing a gasket pontificating about this all being little more than a Frank Black solo album in all but name but hey, fuck 'em, you know? Joey Santiago's still there cranking up his Gold Top for all it's worth and David Lovering remains a powerhouse timekeeper and so the only question remaining is this: is Indie Cindy any cop?

The simple answer is 'yes'. Encountering their first album since their demise is not unlike meeting that old college friend you haven't seen since his wedding day. Sure, they're a little portlier, the hair has receded a bit (if they're lucky to have any hair left at all) and the prospects of staying up all night after the bottle cap has been thrown away for the avoidance of doubt are slim at best but that old magic is there. Sure, the youthful energy, wild abandon and surrender to acts of glorious stupidity and totally futile gestures are a thing of the past but the very thing that brought you together in the first place remains firmly in place.

So it is with Pixies. The scream that ushers in 'What Goes Boom' may lack the blood-curdling effect from days of yore but those dampened chords and punctuating arpeggios that go from quiet to loud and back to quite and then loud again are still there and its hard to resist the thrill as you think, hey, it's Pixies and they sound like Pixies only 23 years on. Likewise, 'Greens And Blues' and the title track that follow wouldn't sound out of place on Bossanova – itself an album that arrived to a mixed response – and it's to that third album that the minds wanders because now, just as then, Gil Norton's slick production certainly smoothes over the rawness and rough-and-ready feel of their earliest releases. Not that this is a sticking point; all concerned have matured both as people and musicians and such is the ageing process. We all move on. That's how things work.

This is what makes 'Magdalena 318' such a joy. Retaining that creepy otherness that characterised them before and occasionally doffing its hat to Dr Feelgood's 'Roxette', here Pixies are happy to move away from type with something that, for them, at least, verges on being a ballad. Similarly, 'Ring The Bell' finds Pixies striking out into pastures new with a tenderness and consideration that was previously little in evidence. There's a treat to be had that so far down the line, Pixies still possess the ability to make you sit up and notice and that it comes from the unlikeliest of sources doubles the sensation.

All well and good but the Kim Deal issue rears its head prominently on 'Bagboy', wherein facsimile vocals are delivered by Bennies singer and Frank Black collaborator Jeremy Dubs, and yeah, you sure do miss her. But what's a band to do? Shitcan the project? If anything, the track can be seen as an acknowledgement by Pixies of Deal's Herculean contribution to their impressive back catalogue, but the compensations are numerous, most notably on 'Blue Eyed Hexe'. Granted, the nods to AC/DC are obvious but then again wasn't Trompe Le Monde supposed to be their heavy metal album? Ah, how quickly people forget.

Seen in the cold light of day, Indie Cindy – the result of three recently released EPs – does feel like first nervous steps of a child dipping its toes into the water for the first time rather than a huge splash but this shouldn't really come as a surprise; after all, Pixies are probably more acutely aware of their legacy than you or I ever will be. Chances are that after the initial thrill has gone, you'll be reaching for Indie Cindy less frequently than Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, more than Trompe Le Monde and about the same as Bossanova and that's not a bad return to the fray by any measure. Job done and welcome back - it's nice to see you again.

Andy Mac
Apr 25, 2014 2:52pm

this is an excellent review - an album not without its issues but way better than it's been reviewed elsewhere, cheers!

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natenate101
Apr 25, 2014 4:24pm

In reply to Andy Mac:

Solid review and like Andy Mac mentioned it's a worthwhile album for sure, warts and all. But the best seems yet to come in terms of Pixies 2.0.

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Ben
Apr 26, 2014 4:06am

I used to be all for histrionics in music writing, I probably still dig it when it's done well, and I definitely still want to hit anyone who says "It's only rock and roll" or similar... but this calm, thoughtful, human review is just great. As for "those across the pond", I don't know if I trust anyone who rates Trompe above a 9 and then pans this album. I've got a feeling the second last sentence of this review will turn out to be spot on.

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Apr 26, 2014 4:27am

Looks like Frank Fucking Black, tastes like utter dogshit. You fucking Limeys slay me-- and should know A LOT better. At least the NME simps had style.

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Declan Braithwaite
Apr 26, 2014 4:29am

What kind of lives as listening artizts do you turds live that this could be anticipated in ANY way?

Even if it's "OK" or better, how about catching the fuck up with 1000+ years of known musics, for starters?

Seriously, the Quietus' bottom feeding has long been putrid enough, this feckless pandering is lower the the shit of Nessie.

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Tenbenson
Apr 26, 2014 11:14am

In reply to Declan Braithwaite:

Wow. The hatred spewing forth from you and the Unnamed American above is stunning to witness. Don't you have anything better to do?

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Tenbenson
Apr 26, 2014 11:16am

In reply to :

You've got drool on your chin. Clean yourself up, for God's sake.

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Kim Gallagher
Apr 26, 2014 11:19am

In reply to Tenbenson:

I have to say, I heard some of this on the radio and thought: 'what is this utter crap??' It sounded like Oasis or something... terrible

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Tenbenson
Apr 26, 2014 11:52am

In reply to Kim Gallagher:

To be honest, I haven't even heard the new stuff. I just think that the spittle-flecked drivel above is totally out of proportion to what we're actually talking about.

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Tim
Apr 26, 2014 3:00pm

Ok so I just listened to this on a stream for the first time having ignored the original ep releases. I love the old Pixies records and saw them on their Doolittle tour at Brixton 5 years ago and it was fantastic, I felt their reunion was vindicated but I could never really make myself interested in new material (especially after Kim's departure).

Well... Its quite stunningly bad. I'm really confused. I'm not trying to start a fight but I don't see how anyone but a devoted fanboy could approve of this. It's seems to be the antithesis of what the band were originally about. When "Another Toe in the Ocean" started I thought it was one of those awful Spotify ads for high street rock drivel until I remembered I wasn't using Spotify. Andro Queen was sort of pleasant in a Vampire Weekend kind of way (which in itself isn't something I would want to write about a Pixies song) but the rest was just depressing. I honestly don't understand why you could give such a positive review to this record. It does not deserve any place in their discography, let alone comparisons with Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde! Are you just trying to be different from Pitchfork? I genuinely don't understand.

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Timmy22well
Apr 27, 2014 7:30pm

At last, a balanced and well informed article about this record that echoes my own feelings (as a fan of the band for 2/3rds of my life). So many comments have been black and white "they were great.. but this sucks". The truth has far more shades of grey. I feel on balance the album is good and was well worth making, but more importantly as fans who are we to tell Charles & co, what they should and shouldn't do. They make some of the best records of all time and are cursed to never again record under that name.. Please! I don't doubt that Kim would have added something else to the mix, but you have to respect the fact that she wanted to walk away. Anyway, as I said before good article...

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Andrew
Apr 28, 2014 2:24pm

Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim and Doolittle are fantastic. The next two are not nearly as good, if we're being honest with ourselves. They were going downhill long before this. I don't think the current one is that much worse than Bossanova and Trompe, but I'm not that impressed with those either.

You live long enough, you get used to the idea that bands make great albums and albums that aren't so great.

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mark432
Apr 29, 2014 1:51am

I don't understand the lack of love for Bossanova. Rock Music, Velouria, Dig for Fire, Down to the Well, The Happening, Blown Away, Hang Wire, Havalina are perfection!

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Basstunedtored
Apr 29, 2014 11:34am

In reply to mark432:

Totally agree, Mark - I've always loved Bossanova, and find it mysteriously underrated.

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Apr 29, 2014 12:34pm

Been listening to the new Pixies, seeing if there's something to be salvaged from the impact of those EPs put into an album format. Tbf it sounds better as an album, but it's still not convincing. 'Magdelena 318' sounds like something you could almost get behind, but really what it sounds like something that got scrapped in the Bossanova sessions for not really going anywhere...'Bagboy' is weird and not very Pixies, until you get to the chorus, then it sounds like a rejected b-side. 'What Goes Boom' is just some awful metal throwback that sounds like Pixies trying to be a late 90s Kerrang band....a sad state of affairs

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Ricardo
Apr 29, 2014 3:28pm

Heck, I was in a band that opened for the Pixies during their Surfer Rosa tour. They were a tour de force for sure-they were at that particular apex of sound. But that was 25 years ago. To expect them to be anywhere near as good as that pristine/blissful moment in time is wishful thinking. And hey, they were not going to pull a Pink Floyd and go in a new direction with a new sound-not needed or even possible. This is a serviceable recording with some pretty good highlights and some "oh ok, whatever" moments. It is not terrible like the never ending venom that Pitchfork continues to spew at this effort as they review e.p. after e.p. Nice approach here-Quietus gets it right and Pitchfork gets it all wrong-the genie left the bottle a long time ago-even though Trompe Le Monde had some amazing moments you could already hear the seams coming apart.

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Matthew
May 4, 2014 4:22am

When I hear this compared to a frank black solo album and it's meant disparagingly -- then I know I'm dealing with an uniformed scenester more interested in fashion than music. The man is a musical genius, and requires at least several listens to get your head tuned to his frequency. Yes, it's only rock n roll but the subtle differences between this album and all the too-easy comparisons is getting is that subtle, genius weirdness.

Be humble before the music and you will be rewarded.

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