PIXIES: INDIE CINDY
You know the story by now: Four unremarkable folks from Boston start a rock band that goes on to influence a generation but doesn’t receive its just desserts at the time of their first incarnation…eventually splits up…gets back together for a reunion tour some twelve years later and is met with an overwhelming response of both critical and financial rewards. So good was the response in fact that two more worldwide tours have followed. Of course I am speaking of Pixies and their remarkable journey from being that band that everyone references as an inspiration, to a present day touring phenomenon that hasn’t released any new material in twenty-two years but still sells out every show they play. Well, Pixies aren’t just content with rereading old chapters from their well worn playbook, their ready to write a few new ones as well....and so we have the much anticipated new album, Indie Cindy.
On the surface of things much remains the same; producer Gil Norton is back behind the board steering the ship; Vaughn Oliver has created artwork that is instantly identifiable as a Pixies record; and as usual, they recorded the album in a studio they were not familiar with. Though much of the same crew that works with Pixies on a daily basis is featured in the making of Indie Cindy, there is one notable exception: Kim Deal. All through the numerous tours since the reunion, the rest of the band had been itching to go into the studio to see if they could conjure any of the old magic, but Deal would always put the brakes on, perhaps fearing that they shouldn’t be messing with the untarnished legacy. Well, back in mid 2012 the band were finally able to convince Deal to meet them in a studio in Wales to lay down new Pixies tracks, only to have her bail on the project, and ultimately the band, five days later. After a brief bout of soul searching, the boys decided to pick up the pieces and finish what they started…and those sessions eventually gave birth to Indie Cindy.
Indie Cindy is not your typical album release; it is actually three previously released EPs put together as one LP. The album opens with “What Goes Boom”, a number that has that familiar Black Francis roar and a song that will surely rank as one of the heaviest the band has ever committed to tape. You can hear Joey Santiago having fun with his guitar effects pedals on the edges of the mix. After years of mid-tempo twang from Francis’ solo efforts, it is more than just a little exciting to hear him put some rock in his roll again.
The 1990 release, Bossanova, is instantly recalled with “Magdalena 318”. Sounding like it could slot in somewhere before or after “Is She Weird”, “Magdalena” is easily the most reassuring song on the record. In fact if there is an album in the back catalog that most resembles what Indie Cindy offers, it would have to be Bossanova; not because they sound the same but because both albums polarized critics and fans alike. The difference being back then people weren’t sure of what to make of their move towards a surf rock, film score sound; where as now it is the polished pop radio hooks that seem to be making longtime fans uncomfortable. “Magdalena 318” is such a treat because it reminds listeners of the sexy weirdness of Pixies without sounding derivative. With years of film scoring work now part of his CV, Santiago makes the song what it is with his moody, slightly sinister six string flourishes.
Fans of Trompe Le Monde will take great pleasure in the Hellish howling of Francis being pushed to his full vocal register in “Blue Eyed Hexe”, which is essentially an updated take on “U-Mass” (David Lovering’s cowbell included).
“Another Toe in the Ocean”, “Jaime Bravo” and “Greens and Blues” are pop/rock songs that would have no problem finding space on today’s modern rock radio, but certainly sound like a quieter, friendlier Pixies.
“Indie Cindy”, the song, sounds more like classic Pixies. All the required elements are there: quiet/loud dynamics; Francis ranting about being the “burgermeister of Purgatory” and “putting the cock in cocktail”; not to mention some truly excellent musicianship between the three members of the old guard as they dance through the numerous time changes.
The true revelation here is “Bagboy”. The song is introduced by programmed beats but quickly turns into an abrasive, almost stream of consciousness spoken word freak out. This is Pixies doing their best impression of The Fall since “Subbacultcha” and in my opinion it is what their future should sound like. What’s exciting about “Bagboy” is that it gives Pixies a new and fresh template for writing adventurous, oddball songs.
Yeah, so Indie Cindy is not Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, but if you were honestly expecting to hear something on the level of two of the finest rock albums EVER created…you need to look yourself in the mirror (I’m talking about you, Pitchfork!). Indie Cindy is not a ground-breaking masterpiece, but it is a fine rock record made by an important band that is trying to find its legs again. It is also not a stretch to equate this latest record to Bossanova or Trompe Le Monde, in fact Indie Cindy pilfers from both those previous works almost equally. The reality is that by the time of Bossanova’s recording, Black Francis had relegated Kim Deal to little more than a session player and the sound of the last two Pixies records reflects that. So, in essence, Indie Cindy is continuation from that period, in so much as that Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde don’t sound like Surfer Rosa and Doolittle either! A quarter of a century has passed since the release of those seminal records and much water has flowed beneath proverbial bridge. They have grown-up and had kids and marriages, made much different music with much different players, and like any other vital artist, don’t want to be confined to the work they have already done. I choose to celebrate the fact that they are willing to stick their necks out and be a creative force again. In fact, I would say that a true artist doesn’t rest on their laurels…they continue to create!
- Johnny Hooper