Pixies are back. The 12 songs on the record were all previously released on a series of three EPs. Taken together, these facts are rife for breeding cynicism and accusations that the group is washed up, has forsaken their artistic integrity and is merely motivated for the dollar at the expense of their former glory. In other words, the typical criticisms any reunited band must face when putting out new material. More times than not, those suspicions of a band’s authenticity are valid and spot-on, but there are exceptions. The biggest issue Black, Joey Santiago and David Lovering need to live down with Indy Cindy is that there is no new material here. It’s a compilation record, the track list reshuffled from the recent run of EPs. Maybe this was done to give a veneer of freshness, but instead it encourages the percolating jadedness of the band’s true intentions. While an album started to seem inevitable about two years into their reunion, the desultory manner in which this one manifested makes it contend with a sense of the obligatory. And, of course, Deal’s absence is a glaring sore spot that many will not entertain even getting past. The Pixies’ drafting of Kim Shattuck then Paz Lenchantin to replace Deal also reeks of an attempt to have a woman in the band more for image than substance.
Yet, what all of those inherent preconceptions fail to broach is whether the songs themselves have merit, and if their arrangement together amounts to a worthwhile entry in the Pixies’ discography or is rather a blight upon it. Going into it, many Pixies fans may wish their ears could wince, hoping to guard themselves against likely disappointment. The most unexpected development, then, is that the songs are mostly alright; some are even bloody good!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Pixies material without that dark underbelly. The stalker vibe and menacing chug of “Magdalena 318” could have found a home on Bossanova, and the down tempo lurch of “Silver Snail” is ominous as hell, Black ruminating about desperation, cradling a loaded gun in bed and suicide scenes. Though the latter both throbs and hypnotizes, it also bolsters the idea that the band is going through the motions, as predictable as it is (when Black sings “On my way back to one”, was there any doubt he’d complete the rhyme with the word “gun”?). Hammering drums, buzzing bass and apocalyptic caution define “Snakes”, Black prophesying an onslaught of serpents with apt guitar lines slither along. With its cowbell thump and monster-stomping rhythm, plus the tongue-in-cheek occult nods and swaggering sex appeal, “Blue Eyed Hexe” bears a definite Queens of the Stone Age influence, and for that alone, it’s intriguing. It also features Black’s most savage yawp of the album.