I recently saw an episode of the YouTube series “Teens React,” where selected teenagers react to trending topics of pop culture. The episode I watched had the youths react to Nirvana, in recognition of their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While some of the teens showed interest and appreciation to one of the greatest bands of all time, I couldn’t help but wish that they saw the band that laid the blueprint for Nirvana. The Pixies were a huge inspiration on Kurt Cobain and company (Dave Grohl once thought that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a rip-off of a Pixies song), with their aggressive delivery, secret kink for melody, and lyrics of social disconnection with the world around them. They split in 1993 (the same year Nirvana ascended to glory) riding on the praise of other bands but not achieving the same success as their Seattle followers. Thankfully, they reunited in 2004 to great excitement and a larger fan base. The Pixies were still snarling despite not playing together for 11 years and only releasing 1 new song to promote themselves. This was one of the true alternative rock legends getting the status they deserved by just being who they were.
With all of that said, who the hell is this other band calling themselves The Pixies (or just Pixies apparently)? Over the past 7 months, some other band has been releasing EPs under the name of The Pixies, but sounding more like half of the alt-rock legends and half of some other band. Songs like “What Goes Boom” and “Blue Eyed Hexa” certainly have the twisting guitar and screaming vocals of Pixies classics like “Gouge Away” and “Debaser,” but “Another Toe in the Ocean” and “Magdalena 318” have an entirely different feel that doesn’t come close to the band behind “Where is My Mind” and “Here Comes Your Man.” This is indeed a case of mistaken identity, but not on the part of listeners.
“Indie Cindy,” the first new Pixies album since 1991 that gathers the material of the band’s 3 EPs released since September of last year, is the sound of a band trying to sound different while still keeping pieces of their classic sound. While this is a noble attempt to move their sound forward instead of rehashing formula, this distorts the image of The Pixies and turns them into sounding like a side project of front man Black Francis. The title track has Francis wondering through “wasted days and wasted nights,” with “no soul, my milk is curdled/ I’m the burger-meister of purgatory.” The spoken word style is familiar, but lines like “you put the ‘cock’ in ‘cocktail,’ man,” are a bit off putting while trying to convince Indie Cindy to be with him in a mellow coo of a singing voice. With other embarrassing vocal performances on “Jamie Bravo,” and “Magdalena,” it’s hard to tell if he’s phoning in his vocal performances or trying to sound like Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. Other tracks like “Another Toe in the Ocean” and “Andro Queen” have neither the musical bite nor beauty that The Pixies could pull off before. The lyrics sound like poetry night at a café on a college campus compared to previous work.
Granted, there are signs of past lives scattered around. “Blue Eyed Hexa” is a dirty grinder with Francis’ screeching vocals that sounds close to going off the rails. Despite the absence of founding member and bassist Kim Deal, “Bagboy” has the familiar female-driven backup vocals to such a weird but intriguing song. “Snakes” has a bit of glow to it, despite being about a plague coming to a neighborhood near the listener. Guitarist Joey Santiago saves a lot of the tracks here with his loud delivery that can be both disheveled and accurate depending on the song.
In fact, if this were an album by some other alt-rock band, it would be considered a solid debut. It’s certainly not perfect, but the music does have its share of enjoyable moments. The problem is simply with the band behind the work, or at least the band they claim to be. “Indie Cindy” is taking the basic frame of The Pixies and mixing up parts to see what might work, with varying results. But considering that there was clearly still life in this band when they reunited 10 years ago, “Indie Cindy” is a big disappointment by the time the album is over. Despite some interesting new sides of the band, this is dull, boring, and occasionally feels half-assed. Again, this would be excusable if this was some other band trying to make a name for themselves, but this is The Pixies we’re talking about. This is a band who never gave a damn about the norms of rock and who wore their weirdness like Superman’s cape. The Pixies in 2014 are now just trying to be another Clark Kent in the crowd, while it’s up to the rest of the world to remind the teens of the #selfie generation what was and now is not very similar to great alternative rock.
Final Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars
Essential Tracks: Bagboy, Blue Eyed Hexa, Snakes
Ignore: Indie Cindy, Andro Queen, Ring the Bell, Magdalena 318
Side Note: Check out “Women of War,” the band’s new single exclusively for Record Store Day. It’s a solid song that should’ve been on this record.