Album Review: ‘Indie Cindy,’ Pixies

‘Indie Cindy’ is fantastic because Pixies are fantastic but even as their biggest fan and even as someone who thoroughly enjoyed their first album in twenty years and who accepted the changes in their sound, it would be ignorant to brush over the obvious point that there are points on this album where some tracks feel a little stale.

Pixies first full length LP since 1991’s ‘Trompe Le Monde’ comes in the form of the amalgamation of the three EP’s which the band released throughout 2013 (EP1, EP2, and EP3). ‘Indie Cindy’, has certainly divided opinion, with people calling out the apparently overt absence of Kim Deal (ex-bassist & vocalist) and the cleanliness of the sound. It is true that Kim Deal’s basslines have driven some of Pixies’ best songs and her vocals were incredibly distinctive and a key feature of the band’s sound during the 80’s and 90’s and that the recording sounds much more acute and less ‘messy’ than the sound which defined some of their seminal releases such as ‘Come On Pilgrim’. Naysayers have also claimed that ‘Indie Cindy’ sounds like a Frank Black solo album, which is nonsense. To go into listening to a new album by a band that have been away for over twenty years and expect a direct continuation of the same sound would be nothing short of ridiculous. Having avoided listening to the EPs individually the songs had not become worn with familiarity and so, sitting down to listen to this brand new record by one of my all-time favourite bands, I was incredibly excited to hear the first notes of the gorgeously distorted, choppy guitar riff which inducts album opener, ‘What Goes Boom’…

So here, to fully appreciate this fantastic new album, is my track by track review:

‘What Goes Boom’ 8/10
The album’s opening track is the perfect start; a rough, lo-fi riff interwoven with a jarring drum beat marks the return of the kings of alt. rock. Santiago’s frenetic guitar writhes beneath the voice of Black during the song’s main hook as he growls, ‘What. Goes. Boom?’ From this aggressive, driven riff the band take a wonderfully Pixies left-turn into a subdued, melodic post-chorus of sorts with dual vocals. Definitely a very strong, reassuring start. ‘What Goes Boom’ would not have sounded out of place on ‘Bossanova’ (1990).

‘Greens and Blues’ 8/10
Maintaining momentum, ‘Greens and Blues’ is an acoustically driven track with an instantly engaging sliding lead guitar part which re-occurs throughout the song. This second track brings to mind songs like ‘Wave of Mutilation’ and is instantly memorable. The sound is very clean and precise which is something which many fans have taken issue with but there are still effects aplenty, with Frank Black’s guitar often playing through swathes of echo. Removed from the opening number’s aggression, ‘Greens and Blues’ offers up a much more personal message in a melodically heavy form.

‘Indie Cindy’ 10/10
The title track, although initially sounding like a continuation of the sound showcased on ‘Greens and Blues’, melds the strange aggression Pixies often possess and their knack for simplicity and melody. The result is perfection. Opening with a hazy surf-influenced guitar part, Frank Black uses an almost spoken-word delivery over meandering guitars before the song relapses wonderfully back into a chorus which screams with the influence of US surf rock. The chorus melody is a stroke of genius. Lyrically this is the first song which truly matches up to Blacks bizarre lyrical tendencies of days past; “No soul, my milk is curdled, I’m the burgermeister of purgatory”…

‘Bagboy’ 8/10
Continuing the album’s strong start the first ‘new’ song Pixies released, ‘Bagboy’ is another album highlight. Beginning with a tentative electric instrumental drum beat and distorted guitars, Black preaches like an anti-salesman. The song building slowly, incorporating more and more voices until the song suddenly bursts into life with the call of ‘Bagboy!’ This chorus really encapsulates the more visceral side of Pixies’ sound. The guitars and vocal interchange is massively reminiscent of songs like ‘Debaser’.

‘Magdalena 318’ 9/10
Next up is my personal highlight on the album. ‘Magdalena 318’ opens up with a thick, muddy riff that pounds along laden in sludge whilst Black muses ‘I needed something to eat…’ This sounds like Queens of the Stone Age in 10 years having been convinced to record an album in art gallery. The chorus is understated, hazy and meandering, the reluctant ‘Magdalena’ aided by high pitched, and eerie guitar parts that really help it slide forward. This song is exactly how Pixies should sound twenty years on. Perfect.

‘Silver Snail’ 7/10
Beginning with shimmering guitar parts that are held together by a strict drum beat ‘Silver Snail’ is a wonderfully understated song. The vocals are shrouded in echo throughout and there is not truly a distinctive chorus but a slight gear change that sees Pixies pick up the volume and increase their use of effects to expand the parameters of the song. ‘Half asleep with a loaded gun’ is a lyric which ironically perfectly sums up ‘Silver Snail’; a song packed full of potential which seems, more or less, to never fully wake up.

‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ 7/10
A distorted start that promises much is bolstered by a cowbell-heavy rhythm that drives the song forward. Here Pixies again delve into the realms of rock as unconventional guitar solos, and some authentic Pixies’ screaming give way to wailing, repetitive choruses. It’s catchy and it packs a pretty mighty punch, but admittedly it sort of feels like the mighty punch of a boxing retiree. It does feel like a bit of an afterthought, but that said, it’s not a bad afterthought to have at all.

‘Ring the Bell’ 6/10
‘Ring the Bell’ is another song on the album which seems to be a little lacking. Black’s falsetto doesn’t quite hit the mark (you can’t help but feel that Kim Deal would have done it perfectly) and the guitar parts do err on the side of being a little unadventurous. Sadly this is probably the album’s lowest point. This is also the only song which could potentially be said to sound more like a Frank Black solo track.

‘Another Toe in the Ocean’ 8/10
Picking it straight back up after the lull ‘Another Toe…’ kicks of with the chorus which is a brilliant move its instantly engaging, guitar driven and memorable. The verses build to a second chorus which is followed by a guitar solo. It’s formulaic in the best way. This song saves the album from taking a turn south towards the album, the chorus is undoubtedly one of the best on the album and harnesses the surf vibe that has laced Pixies music since their beginnings.

‘Andro Queen’ 8/10
The album’s softest moment, this subdued track uses a huge range of vocal effects to create an undeniable sense of atmosphere. This song has been accused of being dull and unimaginative but I think this is actually the most ‘genuine’ moment on ‘Indie Cindy’, while in its formula it could threaten to be a little restrained it instead reaches a level of sincerity and intrigue through its totally uncompromised, uncomplicated simplicity.

‘Snakes’ 7/10
Wonderfully odd, ‘Snakes’ jars into life with stilted drums with verses that sound like a Jack White indebted soundtrack to a psychedelic western horror film. The vibe is an odd one to say the least. The chorus lives up to this mark suggesting ‘Snakes are coming to your town…there’ll be nothing to do when the rattles shake’. It’s a hard track to pin down but overall it comes off well.

‘Jaime Bravo’ 6/10
This song round off what is (as much as I don’t like to admit it) a fairly inconsistent album. It isn’t bad but this track matches Ring the Bell in terms of lack of weight. It seems to be devoid of any conviction and is rather non-descript to be kind…

‘Indie Cindy’ is fantastic because Pixies are fantastic but even as their biggest fan and even as someone who thoroughly enjoyed their first album in twenty years and who accepted the changes in their sound, it would be ignorant to brush over the obvious point that there are points on this album where some tracks feel a little stale. Thankfully those moments are scattered amongst some beautiful musicianship, clever song writing and fantastic lyrics, so we’ll let it slide…

Indie Cindy: 8/10

Words: Leo Bargery

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