Pixies – Indie Cindy

The press release for Pixies’ long awaited – 23 years in fact – comeback album Indie Cindy proclaims “their songwriting chops have hardly wavered and the best may be yet to come”. It doesn’t take long to realise that might be a bit optimistic.

It’s difficult to know how to assess this record – it stands on its own two feet well enough and makes for a perfectly enjoyable listening experience, but knowing what this band are capable of it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Shorn of bassist Kim Deal, Pixies’ differing composition from their heyday extends further than mere personnel changes. Gil Norton who produced Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe le Monde is again at the helm but Black Francis’ lyrics are noticeably less oblique, and the off-the-wall Buí±uel references, biblical allusions and assorted mythological and anecdotal weirdness are dialled down. The title track is a safe ballad that you couldn’t imagine slotting in anywhere on Surfer Rosa or Doolittle. It’s easy to accept that their sound is different, but while this could have been due to the addition of interesting new sonic elements, it is simply due to a watering down of the offbeat characteristics that made their earlier work so endearing.

There are definitely moments that rock in the conventional sense of the word – opener ‘What Goes Boom’ is a highlight in this department, as is ‘Bagboy’, perhaps the most traditionally Pixies moment here replete with Black Francis rants and Deal-esque vocal harmonies. But tracks like ‘Greens and Blues’, the title track, and ‘Ring The Bell’ are almost disconcertingly poppy and generally devoid of the energy that characterised their best work, while ‘Andro Queen’ hints subtly at a new direction but ultimately feels a bit pedestrian.

There’s still a fair deal (no pun intended) of good material here though. ‘Magdalena 318’ is another high point and captures that excellent sci-fi meets surf rock combination present on much of their earlier material. Closing pair ‘Snakes’ and ‘Jaime Bravo’ – with the latter featuring some spoken word ramblings from Francis that hark back to the halcyon days of the band’s first two LPs – along with the aforementioned rockier tracks, still carry enough energy to be captivating. It’s no coincidence that Indie Cindy is at its best when Joey Santiago cuts loose with his guitar – a good helping of mid-song guitar freakout with a fair shake of the Black Francis rant sauce bottle never went astray in the Pixies recipe for success.