ALBUM REVIEW: Pixies ‘Indie Cindy’

Pixies are back. There have been rumblings for some time – the odd festival here, an EP there – but the comeback has not been without its issues. The legend that is Kim Deal has departed, as has Kim Mk2 (AKA Kim Shattuck of the Muffs). Now we’ve reached the moment of truth, as they release their first studio album in 23 years. The big question is, will this long-awaited effort live up to their fans’ most fervent hopes, or confirm their worst fears?

First off, it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t technically speaking a new album. Quite a few of these tracks have seen the light of day on one EP or another over the last couple of years. They kick things off with ‘What Goes Boom’, which starts with a fairly gutsy riff that underpins the whole track nicely. Unfortunately the bridge is just crying out for some Kim Deal, and the vocals on the verse sound somewhat anaemic. ‘Greens and Blues’ suffers from the same problem vocals-wise, but makes up for it with chiming guitars and an amiable mood that harks back to the glory days of ‘Here Comes Your Man’.

The first few seconds of title track ‘Indie Cindy’ sound, bizarrely, like a mid-90s Oasis B-side, but they quickly shift gears into a syncopated drive that sounds almost sinister at times, with Black Francis putting a bit of anger into his vocals. The song dissolves through a dreamy chorus and then into a shredding guitar solo, with the contrasting tempos and moods calling to mind the exciting shifts that characterized Doolittle twenty-five years ago.

Next up is ‘Bagboy’, which is all dirge bass lines, drum breaks and wailing guitars, with a touch of the almost spoken-word style vocals that Black Francis seems quite fond of. It’s an odd one though, with some slightly weird backing vocal chants. ‘Magdalena’ sounds slightly more pulled together, with dreamy falsetto vocals layered over gruff, chugging power chords. It seems like a shame when they grind to a somewhat unceremonious halt, as if they weren’t quite sure where to go with it. They carry this sound through into ‘Silver Snail’, adding in a fairly epic, delay-drenched chorus for good measure.

‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ comes as a bit of a surprise, if only because it sounds way more classic rock than I would’ve expected. We start off with some driving drums punctuated with punchy guitars – so far, so Pixies. Then all of a sudden they launch into an almost Aerosmith-esque chorus, all climbing guitar riffs and vocal acrobatics. I quite like it.

‘Ring The Bell’ is up next, a feel-good skip of shimmering, jangling guitars and summery melodies, followed by ‘Another Toe In The Ocean’, which you may have heard doing the radio rounds lately. It’s got a fairly catchy vocal but the guitars sound overly heavy, muddy even, particularly when they make yet another shift in tone, this time to spaced-out vocals and guitars layered over clipped, militaristic drums on ‘Andro Queen’. ‘Snakes’ finds them once more alternating between jangly and gravelly, with an almost anthemic chorus that sounds like they’re trying out a toe in the top 40. The album bows out on ‘Jaime Bravo’, which boasts a head-nodding, feel-good chorus before playing out over summery, layered vocals.

All in all, there’s a lot here that could make Pixies fans pretty happy. There’s a clutch of catchy melodies, jangling Doolittle-esque guitars, and at times even a touch of the vitriol that made the early albums so exciting. The reunion with Gil Norton on production duties should keep a fair few devotees content as well, but for me it’s just too obvious that these were originally recorded as EPs; the overall effect is a bit hotch-potch and mismatched. The vocals on the first two tracks sound muted and almost apologetic, when really they should be trying to grab their audience by the balls from the first note. There are a fair few tracks that could benefit from having a minute or so shaved off their running time. And even more depressingly, it’s all too easy to spot the bits that were meant for Kim Deal to sing – and no offense to Jeremy Dubbs, but he’s just no substitute for Deal’s unmistakably sweet pipes.

So by all means, have a listen to Indie Cindy. Come to it without expectations, and you’ll most likely find something on it to enjoy. Just don’t go wading in with all the unrealistic hysteria that has accompanied The Second Coming of the Pixies (or any other great band, for that matter) because, let’s face it – nothing will ever live up to all that.