Music Reviews
Indie Cindy

Pixies Indie Cindy

(Pias America) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

A reunion isn’t “officially” a reunion until you actually put out a number of new material to warrant if such return was even necessary to begin with. There’s a reason to evangelize the album format as the defining measure for artistic credibility, which is why it’s the hardest for established musicians rekindling their legacy to get right. It’s challenging to recapture a magic that is long gone, which brings the following argument forward: either completely change to a more sensible sound that suits your age, or thrive on a reasonable facsimile of the past that doesn’t betray your highly-regarded body of work. But how do you accomplish this if you’re the Pixies? Their jagged, surrealist brand of alternative rock holds an energy that appeals to eternal youth, which is why they’re easy to introduce to young kids that need a crash course into eighties college rock. They weren’t a product of their time, but the archetypal exception of their time, a foursome that dared to play with oft-kilter themes with a merciless pop sensibility. 

Which is why revisiting past Pixies records can become an odd experience - Doolittle, for instance, hasn’t aged a single day since its release, but you know that you have. So you’re conditioned to believe that you’re now ready to listen to a more “adult” version of the Pixies. Ponder that for a second: even if you’re a Pixies diehard, how often do you revisit their records? There’s a juvenile essence in their music that plays out all the typical emotions of adolescence - barbed guitar dynamics that reflect careless angst, quirky, heartfelt anthems that capture the naive enthusiasm of a first love, and nonsensical lyrical imagery that incites discovery. So when their first big statement in twenty three years is expressed in the form of a shrill, meaty riff, there’s the sudden urge to blindly rejoice their long-awaited return. Because What Goes Boom precisely does that - it produces a burning zeal that fires all cylinders, but once Frank Black begins to rhyme words like,”Ping pong bingo, fills a la Ringo”, you begin to wonder if you’re too old for this shit.

The return of the Pixies, in essence, sounds like a big deal, except they’ve been quietly milking their legacy for the past eleven years. It’s true that they haven’t produced a proper full-length record since Trompe Le Monde in 1991, but ever since their return in 2004 they’ve been touring all major festivals and releasing the odd track here and there. It wasn’t until Bagboy got its release last year that rumors began to spread about any new material, and seeing as Kim Deal felt reticent about going forward we can only assume that any recorded track after that lacks her input altogether. Bagboy has overstayed its welcome since it was first released, carried with stiff, ersatz industrial elements that wouldn’t sound out of place in Gang of Four’s unfortunate comeback album Mall. They then proceeded to release a trifecta of EPs, each boasting four tracks, which would eventually encapsulate the regrettably-titled Indie Cindy. Whether or not those EPs were a taste of what would become their spiritual follow-up after 23 years, or simply a compilation masqueraded as such, is almost irrelevant, since the shoddy sequencing and lackluster quality of the final product more than speaks for itself. 

A first run-through of Indie Cindy nonetheless comes across as inoffensive and, actually, quite competent - Joey Santiago’s histrionic guitar mangling contributes a perfectly symbiotic balance to Black’s lazy strums in Greens and Blues, one of the album’s highlights, and Silver Snail creeps with an unsettling dissonance that looms with a tenebrous timbre. Curiously, though, others sound like new takes on their more raucous moments on record as if injected with a cortisone steroid, mostly found scattered across Trompe le Monde and Bossanova’s quick-witted punk bursts sans the swaying sonic effects. There’s Blue Eyed Hexe, which sounds promising at first with its stop-and-go chord pattern and cowbell taps before it turns into a dull display of Behemoth-sized riffs and an insufferable yelp by Black that instantly transports you into an AC/DC tribute night. But at least Hexe can be forgiven if paired against the mid-tempo drudgery of Ring the Bell, which could be seamlessly spliced into a twenty second jingle fitted to soundtrack a daytime TV advert. 

Indie Cindy does have some redeemable qualities in its last half, especially album closer Jaime Bravo, a chugging rocker with a soothing, buoyant chorus that comes close to upending the thrilling rise of Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons. Except that Black doesn’t sound as passionate, or as fiery, and when he does it seems to add more unnatural callousness to the beefier cuts instead of working them into the groundwork of the songs. It’d be a tad ill-mannered to compare Indie Cindy to the rest of their celebrated discography, and the sleek production and desire to rock in a middle-aged way doesn’t begin to describe its faults (because having acknowledged both is what gives the album a different pulse from past efforts). What’s inexcusable is the indolent rhyming schemes, the neatness and lack of eccentricity, and the complete disregard to storytelling and fondness for cryptic allusions. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination; in fact, it states quite clear that there’s not much substance behind their muscular, other times grounded, modern rock template. It finds them finally taking advantage of some financial opportunities, which is fine, but what’s still in question is who they are really trying to please (or sell this to).