Words by Tim Onslow.
They come for you with songs of love, pirates and the occasional trotter! Unheralded by press release, bootleg or any pre-launch hype, a re-casted Pixies return with an EP to remind the world of the enduring vitality of their strange and beautiful racket
With a legacy as heavily laden with critical scrutiny, multi-generational veneration and internal shit-slinging, you’ve got to wonder how best Black Francis and Co could have approached a return to the limelight after such a long hiatus without drawing ire from some of their more puritanical flock. An entirely new sound fashioned around big beats and post-post-ironic banjos? A concept album upon the theme of irritable bowel syndrome? Or, perhaps, to quietly, without any accidentally engineered preamble or media foreplay, drop a solid rocking EP out of nowhere, one that is propelled by a minor masterpiece (‘Indie Cindy‘) and with a defiantly quotidian title, serving possibly to register maybe both your transcendent nonchalance and the fervent genius of your intent.
‘Andro Queen’ is a relatively becalmed introduction to proceedings, softly echoing vocals over marshal drumming and a progression which only toward the end threatens to erupt in to something more hungry, the echo devolving briefly to megaphone sneers. A melodic and generally subdued song of love, complete with a bridge in Esperanto!
Next comes ‘Another Toe In The Ocean’ kicking straight in to its polite groove without fuss or fanfare. Unusually for Pixies, the structure is resolutely formulaic and it trips along with a college-rock feel. The lyrics perhaps hint at a new resolve (“No more waiting for a new day/You’ve got to swim sometimes”) and come garnished with a typical Black Francis deployment of intrigue by way of a departing reference to a certain Edward Thatch, better known to you and I as the celebrated 18th Century crimelord, Blackbeard.
The gentle roll of its predecessors in the track listing, along with the languid country blues intro riff, could lead a more innocent soul to believe ‘Indie Cindy’ could arrive as a slice of something sane and simple. The aforementioned languor of the opening guitar wanders deliciously for all of 19 seconds before it abruptly breaks, deconstructs and crunches in to jangly mash upon which can be laid, somewhere in its chaotic midst, Black Francis’s signature spoken-word and apparently purposeful clatter of beguiling surrealism. The old beast is loose and it appears not to have been fed in a while.
‘Indie Cindy’ is a track which seems to crystallise the Pixies aesthetic; theoretically simple in its ethos of condensed sonic contrast, those sudden juxtapositions of mood and rhythm, yet always complex and anarchic in the dizzying intensity and technical achievement of its delivery. Between plaintive whisper and furious bombardment, between discordant rant and melody so sweet it could give your ears diabetes, this song belongs in the large catalogue of their finest offerings.
And again with the lyrics, only a churlish fool could deny the beauty of a chorus such as:
“I’m in love with your daughter
And though she has no need,
I’m the one who’s got some trotters,
You’ve many mouths to feed.”
EP1 is a record by which Pixies seem to shake off the weight of their history whilst simultaneously celebrating and revelling in it. As stark, stirring and reliably weird as Black Francis‘s vocals are, his spoken/shouting-word style feels like a surreal framework of glorious verbal props upon which to lay the quintessentially restless Pixies construction, schizophrenically switching back and forth between movements, packing as many ideas and emotions in to a single track as some bands only achieve in an album, or even a career.
This is a beautiful release, flirting nostalgia with a powerful affirmation of their place in the contemporary firmament. With their complex past of glory and pain, the recent departure of Kim Deal and the breadth of critical anticipation awaiting anything they do, for Pixies right now all that matters is the cacophonous energy and invention which beat forth from this record.
Pick up a copy of EP1 now via the band’s website.