Pixies - EP-3 / Indie Cindy
Posted on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 | No Comments
So which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
A quick poser for you: take a look at this recent Wikipedia update below. Is there anything that strikes you as just a little...well, off?
There's a few answers I could allow you there. First, hang on, they're counting Come On Pilgrim as the debut album, not Surfer Rosa? You could also have the more prosaic and straightforward but entirely accurate response of holy shit, there's a new Pixies LP? It's the third answer on my sheet that's the most telling though, and that is, they're not really going to call it Indie Cindy are they?
Yes, the slow roll-out that has been going on since the release of Bagboy last year is finally complete with the announcement of the first Pixies album since Trompe le Monde, their fifth (or sixth) in total and the culmination of a lengthy-heading-into-tedious, will-they-won't-they storyline that's been lumbering on in the background right from the start of the Pixies reunion in 2003. Having previously been issued as limited-edition EPs, the twelve tracks that the remaining Pixies trio cut with Doolittle producer Gil Norton in Wales back in October 2012 are finally being issued as the full-length they were surely intended to be from the outset.
Yet while that album isn't out until April, the release of EP-3 means that any Pixies fan that's been paying attention now has the full album already. Finally, here's an artist that's found the secret to stopping their album from leaking - just make sure everyone already has the damn thing in dribs and drabs. But the slow unveiling of this new material is still clearly intentional: I still stand by my assessment in my review of EP-2 that this slow drip-feed has given fans time to grow into the material and accept it for what it is, rather than just knee-jerking it into oblivion because none of them are Debaser and Kim Deal isn't there. And since they've released these tracks as three EPs initially, the listeners have of course experienced it first in that form, so us writers have no choice but to critique on that basis. As such what follows, in an unorthodox but entirely necessary fashion, is a review of EP-3 as it has just landed and of what we now know to be the Indie Cindy album as a whole.
After the reassuring EP-2, this final release in the trilogy unfortunately sends those of us who had been defending the post-Deal Pixies crashing back to earth. The best track by far is the one everyone already knows, Bagboy. Aside from the vague (and admittedly over needy) feeling that its inclusion here has somehow cheated us of an extra song, having it lead off the EP after having been made available previously to announce the band's new material makes one wonder if there's much left in the tank for this one. Bagboy was and is a superb comeback single, a track that feels authentically Pixies without recourse to pastiche, the buzzing synth bass and gang vocals that lead into that chorus that isn't proof positive of a band more than capable of making their sound work anew. That it's the best track on EP-3 shouldn't be a huge shock, but the genuine gulf in quality is an unwelcome surprise.
Silver Snail makes a decent fist of it, working in a similar sci-fi vein to Magdelena as Frank Black's noir lyricism follows a lurching, sinister bass line: no masterpiece, sure, but enjoyable enough. Come the B-side though, and the shit hits the fan/wax. Ring The Bells and Jaime Bravo are bland, insipid shite that deserve the disinterested performances they receive. Full of shockingly generic chord sequences and bland arrangements, Joey Santiago does his best to inject some passion into this lifeless duo but to no avail. There's many things wrong with these tracks, not least the Starbucks gloss of them, but it's the meta-lyricism of the two that really worry. Ring The Bells aims to be a big, happy celebration of the boys being back in town - "I've been away a long time" and so on - but emerges as a sickly, arrogant failure worthy of post-Maladroit Weezer, while Jamie Bravo seems to be the attempted new show-closer written before the entirely more successful Greens & Blues, introducing itself with a riff in the style of (oh how the mighty have fallen) Blink-182 and compounding the pain with a maddeningly lazy chorus of "Goodbye / goodnight". Before, the Pixies dealt in incestuous families, surrealist art, UFO theories and all manner of arresting lyrical ground. To see them now reduced to just announcing the song's potential set-list placing is a sad, ugly fate.
The failure of EP-3 does not have to mean the failure of Indie Cindy as an album. But horrifyingly, the final album manages to compound rather than address the flaws of the constituent EPs, and ends up detracting from some of the actual strong material this session brought up. The stomping, subtlety-free over-production of the session is distracting enough in four-song blasts, but for a full album it makes for a tiresome, distracting listen - a sin in any case, but for a band for whom dynamics were such a vital weapon in their arsenal, it's an astonishing own goal. There's also the flabby run-time to content with: for a band that had once routinely managed to blast through fifteen tracks in under forty minutes (and ones far more strange and complex than this new batch), that these twelve tracks go on for forty-six minutes just compounds the feeling of inertia that the worst tracks here - Andro Queen, Ring The Bells, Jamie Bravo - infect the album with. The sadistically front-loaded sequencing doesn't help matters either, and from a band whose previous albums had worked as such magnificent wholes, the lack of care or flow to Indie Cindy is yet another mark against it.
And really, the truth is that Indie Cindy shouldn't have been an album. Not just because it's merely a compilation of already released tracks, but because listening to all twelve new Pixies songs as a whole makes it clear that a good third of this material is genuinely undeserving of the name. If someone in their camp had managed to talk some sense into them and suggested a Come On Pilgrim-style mini album - an idea that lends a nice symmetry to their discography, that suggests a new start for the group, and most importantly would have allowed them to step ahead with just the strongest of their new songs - then this long-awaited return to the studio might have been greeted as a success. Between tracks as good as Bagboy, Blue Eyed Hexe, Greens & Blues and What Goes Boom there's certainly the makings of a fine new chapter in the Pixies saga, some truly great music more than deserving of carrying on the immaculate work of that still astounding original run. This, however, is not that start, and after the long tease Indie Cindy has winded up as a poorly produced, under-written and ill-considered failure when it could have easily been so much more. Here lies a once mighty empire, reduced to a shell of its former self: maybe they should have just called the damn thing Ozymandias.