Prince Returns…Twice

Prince can be called many things: weird, unpredictable, innovative, genius, and other things. But one thing he has always been is generous, especially with his music. He was one of the first music superstars to provide new albums on the Internet, released 3-4 disc collections of new or unheard cuts, and his last album was available for free exclusively in European tabloids and newspapers. Considering the artist formally known as The Artist has made 10 platinum albums out of 32 in a nearly 40 year career, you’d think he’s some guy passing out unmarked discs at a garage sale and not one of the biggest and most influential artists of all time. It’s been 4 years since Prince has put music to a record, but he’s stayed busy playing intimate surprise shows, chatting with Arsenio Hall, and eating pancakes with Zooey Deschanel. More notably, Prince has been playing shows with his new all-girl backing band 3RDEYEGIRL. Now, Prince is giving the world twice the beat in two different ways with a new solo album and 3RDEYEGIRL’s album debut. So what fits Prince better: rock and roll frontman or the purple funk freak the world knows and loves?

Well, if you have a far reaching knowledge of Prince, you’d know that he is an excellent guitar player (along with all of the other basic instruments he can play). Because of his original stance as an R&B legend, that skill hasn’t been highlighted as often as he would like. With 3RDEYEGIRL, he’s able to really flex his fingers with a six-string. On Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL’s new (confusingly titled) album “PLECTRUMELECTRUM,” Prince shreds his distorted, fuzzed-out guitar like he’s Jimmy Page on “Pretzelbodylogic,” “Fixurlifeup,” and “Funknroll.” 3RDEYEGIRL themselves sync up with the purple one very well. Bassist Ida Nielsen slaps each note of “Boytrouble” and make great rhythm sections with drummer Hannah Ford Welton on “Stopthistrain.” The group as a whole give off a great Led Zeppelin meets Sly & the Family Stone sound, but manages to slow things down for intimate moments on “Whitecaps” and tear through cuts like “Anotherlove.” Prince sounds more free and fun on “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” than he has in quite some time.

Prince’s solo disc “Art Official Age” is another story. Here, he never kicks things into high gear. His solo take on “Funknroll” always manages to forget to turn up to 11 when it needs to, while the title track and “The Gold Standard” has too many vocal effects and not enough killer breakdowns to make 5-star tracks. In fact, “Art Official Age” shines brightest when Prince slows things down. Take “Breakfast Can Wait” for instance, where Prince makes sex before pancakes sound like the ultimate come-on, especially with the use of less vocal effects, a drum beat and smooth guitar. “U Know” on the other hand has Prince sing-rapping into a vocoder with a skittering beat to back his purple freshness. “What It Feels Like” has Prince laying out his desire for his future girl, while “Breakdown” has Prince looking back on lost time. It’s a good record, but half the songs here feel like something’s missing.

Where “Art Official Age” shines on slow jams, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” burns through funk-rock like there’s no tomorrow. If 3RDEYEGIRL is Prince’s new musical direction, it sounds as electric as his guitar he probably has turned up to 11. Out of the new releases, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” seems to stand out more for its volume and spirit. “Art Official Age” has its moments that prove Prince is still smoother than anyone will ever be, be his upbeat tracks need more authentic instruments and not Pro Tools. The world will love Prince either way (it’s impossible not to like at least one of his songs), but 3RDEYEGIRL may be the vehicle he needs to release his inner-Hendrix. Either way, Prince loves music so much, he’ll give it to the world in two ways, God bless him.

Final Verdict (“Art Official Age”): 3.5 out of 5 stars
Final Verdict (“PLECTRUMELECTRUM”): 4 out of 5 stars

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U2 Take a Sales Step Forward, But a Sonic Step Back

This is it? This is all we get after 5 years?

Well, it looks like U2 are finally enjoying the perks of being the Biggest Band in the World. For those unaware, being the Biggest Band in the World entitles this Irish quartet, with over 150 million records sold and the highest grossing tour ever, to much leisure: global recognition when a new song or album is released, instant buzz on the album being either a “return to form” or “artistic leap forward,” top notch producers or songwriters, methods of releasing new material in ways nobody else could, and the most popular perk to global music stardom; phoning it in.

Now, it wouldn’t be a big deal if anyone else made a half-assed record that’s just an advertisement for how awesome they are (see The Rolling Stones’ output from 1986 to 2005). But it’s a bit more distressing when U2 is pulling back on the throttle. Hearing that Bono and company, men that dared to mix post punk with politics and then German industrial music with visual overload, decided to unleash their new album upon iTunes and Apple users for free (in return for a reported $100 million from Apple themselves) seems more like an annoying email from your professor about homework than a new statement from the best stadium rock band alive today. Regardless, “Songs of Innocence,” the first U2 album since 2009s criminally underrated “No Line on the Horizon,” is here to remind listeners that U2 are back…kind of.

Despite main production of the album being from Danger Mouse (Beck, Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys) and songwriting credits from Ryan Tedder (of bore-rock king OneRepublic, who U2 should stay as far away from as possible) and Paul Epworth (Adele), “Songs of Innocence” sounds incomplete with only half the effort of a traditional U2 record put into it. Nearly every song here sounds like something is missing, like the band doesn’t capitalize on the great build up each songs gives off.

Lead single and opening track “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” has the typical fuzzed out riff from The Edge and “ooo aahh oo”s in the background. The lyrics are Bono thanking the late Ramones lead singer for enlightening him through punk rock (“I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred/Heard a song that made some sense out of the world/Everything I ever lost now has been returned/The most beautiful sound I ever heard”). It’s a nice thought, but the Ramones’ spirit is drowned out by electronic effects and a lack of drive from the band. “Volcano,” driven by a bass line The Black Keys probably want back, could’ve been a real fist-pumper thanks to the bass and Edge’s fuzzy riffs. But again, they never go for the jugular and just stay a little above mid-tempo (despite Bono really trying to pump himself here on the vocals). Tracks like “Raised By Wolves,” 
“This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now,” and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” could’ve used a big production boost to leave a more lasting impression, perhaps from previous U2 collaborators like Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, or Steve Lillywhite. Instead, tracks like “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” do just that; put the listener to sleep.

Musically, “Songs of Innocence” sounds like a collection of unfinished demos. The good news is that the lyrics are very autobiographical and intimate. “Iris (Hold Me Close)” is a loving tribute to Bono’s mother (“You took me by the hand/I thought that I was leading you/But it was you made me your man/Machine, I dream where you are/Iris standing in the hall/She tells me I can do it all”). Meanwhile, the dreamy sound of California rock gets a nod on “California (There Is No End To Love),” via back-up vocals mimicking The Beach Boys “Barbara Ann.” They even showcase both sides of a relationship: the beautiful beginnings (“Song for Someone”) and the fear of the end (“Every Breaking Wave”). U2 even make room for Swedish singer Lykke Li for album closer “The Troubles,” where U2 deal with age creeping up on them and shaking it off (“I have a will for survival/So you can hurt me/And then hurt me some more/I can live with denial/But you’re not my troubles anymore”). By the album’s end, it’s clear this is U2 taking a good long look at themselves instead of everything in the world. It’s great to hear U2 looking inward now and understanding their age. They’re not going to be around forever, so they’re proudly reminding who they are, where they came from, and they still want more.

If only they sounded like all of those things. Whether it be from a production team that’s holding them back sonically or if this was a rushed job to make a souvenir for the iPhone 6, “Songs of Innocence” is disappointing. A U2 album about who U2 are is great on paper, but the delivery needs more of a kick. All of the songs on here are sonically half-baked with nothing to make it memorable. Nothing here sounds as huge as stuff like “Beautiful Day” or “Bullet the Blue Sky” and the intimate moments of album are too few or too boring. No wonder Apple already released a device to get this album off people’s devices, because everyone’s needs more room for their photos of cats and food. Actually, that might be the saddest thing about “Songs of Innocence”; that it’s competing for space on iPhones. Yikes.

Final Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Essential Tracks: “Every Breaking Wave,” “”California (There Is No End to Love),” “Song for Someone,” “The Troubles.”

The Case of Jackson’s “Xscape”

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Like all things involving Michael Jackson, “Xscape” is a complicated case. The 2nd piece of unheard material released after Jackson’s death in 2009 has been “contemporized” by a handful of producers (Timbaland, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Jerome Harmon, etc.) selected by Antonio “L.A.” Reid. The task is meant to make Jackson’s incomplete or buried tracks seems more modern and fitting on the charts the way Jackson would’ve wanted them to be. However, there is a slight complication with the release of the album: there is the standard version with the 8 “contemporized” tracks, and a deluxe edition with the standard 8 along with the songs in their “original” versions and a duet with Justin Timberlake. So the question is; are the “contemporized” tracks worthy of their new polished reworking or should the original versions have been left alone? Let’s take a look to see if “contemporizing” is worth it.

 

Track 1: “Love Never Felt So Good”

The “contemporized” version is definitely more complete than its original version. Propelled by a soft piano and handclaps, Jackson’s voice is smooth as he woos the new love he has in his life. When he hits the chorus, it’s jubilance with a subtle electric guitar strumming and strings washing through the bridge. While it may be “contemporized,” this version could easily fit into Jackson’s disco breakthrough “Off the Wall.” The duet version with Timberlake is even better, if only for having a bit more skip in its step. More focus is placed on the live band (drums and guitar) to make it sound funkier. Timberlake is a great duet partner to Jackson when they trade lyrics and have their voices synched together. The original version sounds more like a demo (a polished demo, but a demo nonetheless), with just finger snaps in the background and the piano.

Winner: Duet “contemporized” version with Justin Timberlake

 

Track 2: “Chicago”

            With an electronic drumbeat and glimmering synths, this is another light R&B track “contemporized.” Jackson again goes back and forth between his soft coo and his signature gritty singing about a woman who lied to him and has another family. It’s not hard-hitting, but easy to bob one’s head to while cruising in a car, which is an odd thing for a song about infidelity to do. The original version is a bit slower with more cymbals than drums. Jackson’s vocals are also slowed down a bit, which really throws the song off. The music itself could’ve been an interlude, but his vocals don’t match up to make a working song.

            Winner: “Contemporized” version

 

Track 3: “Loving You”

            Here is another happy love song to stroll down the street to, weather permitting. Jackson talks about the August moon and waiting for the stars to come out. A more progressive drum loop drives the chorus, with light horns punctuating the end of each verse. It’s a good modern love song, but it actually gets beat by its predecessor. The original version has music much more fitting to Jackson, with 80s style electric drums and synths. The original version sounds like it could’ve been recorded during the sessions for “Thriller” or “Bad.” It’s sounds much more familiar to the classic King of Pop. A smooth group of horns carries the listener through the bridge, only adding to the lightness of the song.

            Winner: Original version

 

Track 4: “A Place with No Name”

            Believe it or not, Michael Jackson is apparently a folk music fan. At least, a fan of America’s 1972 hit “A Horse With No Name,” because he reworked into this rubbery dance track. Here, Jackson talks about being taken to a mysterious happy place by a woman who falls for him and doesn’t want him to leave (think “Hotel California”). Jackson is backed by a bouncy drumbeat and a funky organ riff to create a great dance beat. The original version sounds like a clear rip-off of America’s hit, considering it uses the exact same acoustic guitar riff to drive the song. Electronic drums and Jackson’s aching vocals help keep it within the storytelling aspect of the America song, almost like Jackson is telling the listener the story by a campfire. Both songs are good, but the “contemporized” version gets the point for at least having a bit or musical originality. The original mostly sounds like Jackson doing a karaoke cover with his own lyrics.

            Winner: “Contemporized” version

 

Track 5: “Slave to the Rhythm”

            This track, recently performed via hologram at the Billboard Music Awards, is a thumping dance track that would’ve given Jackson prominence on the modern dance floor. Regarding a girl who is, of course, a “slave to the rhythm,” a fast drumbeat, strings, and a beeping synth beat. Jackson sounds alive and agitated as he has on “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal.” The original version sounds hollow and incomplete, almost like a half-baked idea he had from the “Dangerous” sessions. The drums are very tinny and there’s nothing else to back Jackson’s energetic voice up. This one definitely needed an overhaul.

            Winner: “Contemporized” version

 

Track 6: “Do You Know Where Your Children Are”

            For the record, this song title is ripe for a joke but let’s avoid that and stay on point. Here is probably the most eclectic song in the album, with its heavy organ, epic string section and clapping drumbeat. Jackson talks about a young girl alone in the big bad city in his stressful voice and some impressive high-pitched backing vocals. There is also a guitar freak-out in the bridge and the outgoing of the song to create a more frantic atmosphere. The original is definitely a 80s demo, with organs similar to those hear on “Bad” or even a classic Prince record. Jackson’s vocals are slightly louder, but it’s not as alive as the contemporary version. The guitar is tamer, it’s not as dance floor ready, and there is annoying wood block being hit in the chorus that is almost as loud as Jackson.

            Winner: “Contemporized” version

 

Track 7: “Blue Gangsta”

            With its high energy, thumping beat, and Jackson at his most powerful, this may be the best song on both versions of the album. The “contemporized” version has the same urgency and tension as “Bad,” Smooth Criminal,” and “Dangerous.” Horns and synths slam in and out of the song, with backup vocals adding great drama to Jackson hustle and strut through. The drum beat uses fast snare hits to pump up the chorus, while a soft piano allows Jackson to take firm control of each verse. The original version has more focus on horns to give the song an old school feel to it. There is even an accordion playing in the verse to create a more interesting atmosphere. It sounds like Jackson is in the middle of “The Godfather,” challenging Vito Corleone for power. Both songs are great forms of pop escapism and the centerpieces of both versions of the album.

            Tie

 

Track 8: “Xscape”

            The final track on the album is Jackson in “Leave Me Alone” mode, rejecting the views and control of “the system.” The “contemporized” version is a tight R&B jam with horns and funky guitar trading blows as Jackson huffs and puffs through. The drums are not hard-hitting, but effective to move bodies on the dance floor. However, the original version is way more progressive and hits harder. Twitching electronic drums and keyboard blips go in and out of the song. It sounds like a modern version of “They Don’t Care About Us,” but more aggressive and dance able. It’s a four on the floor stomper that puts Jackson in a more modern context of pop.

            Winner: Original version

 

Final Score:

Contemporized: 5

Original: 2

Tie: 1

Final Verdict: This new collection is definitely an improvement over 2010’s sub-par “Michael.” There are certain tracks that put the King of Pop in the current style of pop music that would’ve kept his prominence on the charts if he were still alive. This is not a complete “album,” but a collection of songs that Jackson thought were interesting enough to keep in his back pocket. Time will tell if there are more hidden gems than duds in Jackson’s vault and who has the guts to try to present them correctly. 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Coldplay’s Soft But Similar Love Story

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            Yes boys and girls, Coldplay (specifically front man Chris Martin) have gone all Taylor Swift on our asses. It’s been over two and a half years since the nicest guys in rock strutted into stadiums with 2011’s shiny “Mylo Xyloto,” and there has been a big change in the camp of Coldplay (or, again, Chris Martin). In fact, the emotional state of Chris Martin may be the focal point of Coldplay’s latest record. The normally private Martin had apparently been going through marital troubles with his now ex-wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, during the recording process. It’s surprising that this is the first time Martin has allowed such a private matter into his very public career, since Coldplay is known for making their sonic ambition bigger than themselves. They’ve come a long way from being the university friends strumming guitars in pubs and have often let the imagery of their music overshadow lyrics. But album number 6 is the sound of someone taking a good long look in the mirror.

            “Ghost Stories” goes for a stripped down approach while still keeping with the electronic-based style that Coldplay dived into on “Mylo Xyloto.” Drum machines and an inorganic bass line steer 1st single “Magic,” while “Midnight” features Martin singing through a vocoder. “A Sky Full of Stars,” on the other hand, is a full-on EDM track produced by Avicii. It’s commendable for a band that was once panned for breaking out due to a “Wonderwall”–esque acoustic anthem (“Yellow”) to develop to the other side of the musical spectrum over time instead of just switching sounds out of a desperate genre change. But this also means the band has to really hold back, which is disappointing because in classics like “Speed of Sound,” and “Clocks,” the band builds to a great musical climax. Here, everything is subtle and sustained, from bassist Guy Berryman’s pseudo-Peter Hook riff in opener “Always In My Head,” to the quiet plucking and strums of guitarist Jonny Buckland. The atmosphere on “Ghost Stories” is more relaxed than anything Coldplay have done before, creating a solid soundtrack for an introspective night looking up at the stars.

            While this album has a romantic theme to it, it isn’t the Romeo and Juliet love story. There is more sorrow than bliss on “Ghost Stories,” where the man (presumably Martin) longs for the woman he loves after she’s left him. “Another’s Arms” is easy to picture with “late night watching TV/used to be you here beside me/ used to be your arms around me/ your body on my body.” “Oceans” involves Martin, now alone since that’s not been emphasized enough in the second half of the record, trying to find himself “alone in this world.” Right after that, the melancholy is thrown out the window for the upbeat dance number “A Sky Full of Stars,” where Martin says he wants to die in the woman’s arms. The lyrics can be on the level of Ms. Swift’s corniness in its sappy simplicity, almost like picturing Chris Martin alone in his house with nothing but a tub of ice cream and old wedding photos.

            Thankfully, the music keeps the album from too much “don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone” territory. It’s refreshing to hear Coldplay take down the neon lights and fanfare for something so intimate. It actually makes one question how they’re going to apply this on their undoubted upcoming world tour because no matter how small they make their music, they’re still Coldplay. The lyrical content is somewhat of a letdown, not entirely, but the message of the album is clear by track 4 of 9. The atmosphere of “Ghost Stories” is mournful, reminiscent of Peter Gabriel or Bon Iver. Maybe if Mr. Martin had looked at his life beyond his “conscious uncoupling,” he could’ve let his listeners know the struggle behind being one of the biggest bands in the world. But “Ghost Stories” is two pieces of different things: one is the music of a band looking to take a brave step back in a world of loud thumps forward, while the other is a breakup journal. Some romantic listeners might find the new Coldplay a good remedy and the music is an interesting change of pace, it’s just now easier to notice the occasional corny lyric. There is no “bad” song on here, it just seems like a step down from the concepts of “Viva La Vida” and “Mylo Xyloto.” It’s tempting to blame Ms. Paltrow for throwing Chris Martin off, but that’d be too easy.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

Essential Tracks: Midnight, Magic, Another’s Arm, Oceans

Albarn, Alone At Last

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It’s hard to buy the fact that “Everyday Robots” is Damon Albarn’s first official solo album. In Blur, his clever songwriting was the spirit of Britpop that bit its lip at surrounding English culture. While the Gorillaz were comprised of cartoon characters on paper, Albarn was behind the scenes building freaky sounds that merged alternative rock, world music, electronic music, and rap to make one of the weirdest pop formulas in recent memory (over 8 million albums sold worldwide). In fact, how many people who bought the self-titled debut album of his super group The Good, The Bad, and the Queen were Blur and Gorillaz fans? No matter what he’s involved himself in, whether that be singing pop music, producing for soul legend Bobby Womack, or composing operas based on the life of Elizabethan doctor John Dee, Damon Albarn has had the spotlight on him (whether he has wanted it or not). Perhaps all of that time in the bright light has made him focus on the blackness surrounding him, because he has certainly had his share of alienation.

            “Everyday Robots” is the most autobiographical piece of music Mr. Albarn has created since he first (reluctantly) pinched the sound of The Stone Roses 23 years ago. Described by Albarn as “folk-soul,” electronic instruments and piano loops are mixed with African drums and chants, while Albarn lays his heart out in an aching croon. The title track that opens the record is haunting, with the ever-observant Albarn seeing others “looking like standing stones,” as we drive aimlessly or tap away at our phones. He notes his faults in a relationship as he sits alone with his record player on “Lonely Press Play.” “The Selfish Giant” roams in spacey synthesizers with Albarn “waiting for the final call,” as he notes “it’s hard to be a lover when the TV’s on.” The 7-minute “You & Me” is probably the darkest song here, where Albarn briefly sees heroin burn in tin foil as he waits to bleed out. However, another case could be made with “Hollow Pond,” where light picks of an acoustic guitar and an organ create a funeral-like mood for Albarn to mourn over his adolescence. Albarn is so vivid in his lyrics that the listener could close his eyes and see Albarn sitting next to him with his head buried in folded arms.

            Albarn and co-producer Richard Russell have created a rich but mournful setting through the sound on this record. There are more musical elements of Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad, and the Queen here than any of the bounce Blur had, but maybe that’s the point. Albarn, who has doubted the possibility of another Blur record since their reunion in 2008, has made so many musical left turns in his career that “Everyday Robots” plays like the biography of a completely different person than the man behind “Girls & Boys.” While it would be interesting to hear that cocky wiseass comment on the pop culture trends of today, this snapshot of Damon Albarn is fascinating from beginning to end. The music is modern and beautiful and the lyrics are full of dread and bare emotion, adding up to the British equivalent to Beck’s “Morning Phase,” which is just about 2 months older than this album. While this has a space-like atmosphere than Beck’s acoustic delivery, “Everyday Robots” is a fascinating look into the mind and heart of one of music’s modern renaissance men alone with his thoughts.

Final Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

Where Is My Band?

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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.