Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pixies - Indie Cindy

Pixies - Indie Cindy

Evaluating Indie Cindy as if it were recorded in a vacuum might be the fairest thing to do, but while I might be capable of that kind of objectivity, I'm not inclined towards it. I can and will judge it on its own merits, but not without first addressing the obvious concerns that almost always accompany a "comeback" album. Resurrecting the Pixies name opens the door for people to question the wisdom of adding to an arguably flawless catalogue that was sealed off over twenty years ago. I don't begrudge middle-aged musicians for doing what they love, but I've looked in vain for what is so Pixies-like about Indie Cindy that it had to be released under that portentous name. There are people young enough for this album to serve as their introduction to the band, but I'm not one of them.

Many people will point to the absence of Kim Deal in their criticism of Indie Cindy, so I'll start there. Though technically average, Deal is an intuitive player. She is modest and restrained and she knew it rarely took more than four notes to set the stage for Black Francis and Joe Santiago's histrionics. Her approach to songwriting is nothing like that of Francis, yet her few (but noticeable) songwriting contributions always complemented his. Indie Cindy isn't the only Pixies album without a Deal-penned song on it, but it is the only one from which she is absent altogether, and it shows.

Deal's absence wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the other original members as we knew them aren't all present either. Twenty-three years and a million solo albums later, Frank Black has filed off most of what he and Black Francis had in common. Joey Santiago was a student of Neil Young's "learn it and forget it" approach, but now he's learnt it again. David Lovering's drumming is the one element that hasn't been streamlined in his middle age.

This long awaited "new album" is really neither of those things - it is in fact a consolidation of the two EPs released last year and the earlier standalone "Bag Boy", padded out with three new songs, but however lazy its assembly, Indie Cindy is not entirely without merit. "Bag Boy" is the oldest song of the lot, and to anyone who had already heard it, an unfortunate red herring. With its synth bass and drum machine that give way to the tactile thud of Lovering's kick and snare, Francis' spoken rant and the dead simple, appealingly loud guitar work from Francis and Santiago, it would not have been cause to despair if the song had been more indicative of what was to come. Other attempts at straight up rock such as "Blue Eyed Hexe" are more prosaic, but welcome nonetheless. "Magdelena 318" is the album's most Pixies-sounding song and could almost be slotted into Bossanova. Unfortunately, though, Indie Cindy lacks the lively production of Bossanova or any other Pixies album and spends too much of its time on emotionally inert pop-rock that feels simultaneously under and overcooked. It's sad when a band so bereft of what codified them as that band in the first place fails to recreate the intangible magic they once possessed - sad, but unsurprising.

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