Ryan Johnson, Published April 30 2014
Review: Pixies return with inconsistent but worthwhile studio album
Three and a half out of four stars
It’s inconsistent, and certainly not perfect.
But after a 23-year wait, most Pixies fans should find something to appreciate in the band’s new studio album, “Indie Cindy,” released Tuesday.
Now that we’re an entire generation removed from the group’s last effort, 1991’s “Trompe Le Monde,” Pixies had to answer one important question this time around: Is the band that’s influenced so many in the past still relevant today?
The answer, undoubtedly, is yes – though not in the same way that it was all those years ago, when the band members still had a full head of hair and youthful energy, rather than settling into middle age.
Some longtime fans might be inclined to sit this one out, and they have a big reason to be skeptical.
Original bassist Kim Deal walked away from recording sessions for “Indie Cindy,” and was replaced by stand-in Simon “Ding” Archer.
And many of the songs have been out for months or even a year, as the bulk of the tracks were released on three previous EPs.
But lead singer Frank Black (or is it Black Francis again?) has proved in the past that his creative mind didn’t stop working just because his band was on hiatus, and ultimately his presence is all that’s needed to keep enough of the Pixies vibe around to make us happy the band hasn’t called it quits yet.
“What Goes Boom” kicks off the album with gusto, a perfect mix of metal guitar riffs and Black’s blend of yelling and singing that he mastered with the Pixies.
“Bagboy” was one of the first songs we heard off this album, released as a single last year – and it instantly proved to be a polarizing tune among the fans. After listening to it quite a few times, I don’t hate it quite as much as I did after a first spin, though it’s still not my favorite.
“Greens and Blues” is much easier on the ears, a great big dose of nostalgia reminding us of some of the finer moments in Pixies history in a new tune that would work perfectly in an encore.
It’s clear Black is leading the way, and the more laidback sound he mastered through his solo albums is mixed into this Pixies offering on tunes like “Indie Cindy” and “Snakes.”
But he still can crank it up from time to time, helming the band’s fuzzy guitars and spacey vocals reminiscent of the Pixies on other tracks, including “Magdalena 318” and “Jaime Bravo.”
“Indie Cindy” has obvious faults – clocking in at 46 minutes, the album starts to feel a little long toward the end, and perhaps a few of the 12 tracks would’ve been better off as a standalone EP rather than album filler.
Still, it’s not bad considering how long it had been since the three remaining original members had recorded new material, and the loss of Deal isn’t as detrimental as some purists would have us believe.
This album shouldn’t be directly compared to the Pixies’ previous four studio releases between 1988 and 1991, all considered classics today. It’s been too long for that direct comparison, and the band is obviously in a different place now than it was in its raw and energetic youth.
Instead, take “Indie Cindy” as a nice bonus from a band that could’ve just kept touring on its back catalog.
At its best, this album is an inconsistent exercise in chaos and indie sensibility – and that’s precisely what made the Pixies so important in the past.
Bottom line: It’s hard to pass up a new batch of songs from indie icons Pixies, even if “Indie Cindy” isn’t as great as the band’s four classic studio albums from the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587