Baal is back! Pixies ‘Head Carrier’ reviewed

❉  Pixies are back – again! – with a new album, ‘Head Carrier’. “Is it any good? No. It’s great.”

I first set ears on Pixies in Cardiff Students Union Friday Indie Night in 1989. The song was ‘Debaser’ and it sounded like it had been beamed in from another planet. It was like nothing I’d had ever heard, I had no frame of reference for the band or the song. I hated it. There was still enough of the chippiness of the Welsh Valleys in me to sneer at a band so left field. I’d come to Cardiff to go to Art School and so as the months and years went by I succumbed to the sheer brilliance of the Boston four piece.

Pixies went the way of all things flesh in 1993 until a glorious reunion in 2004. I took every opportunity to see them live and each gig was a joy, probably culminating in the ‘Doolittle’ gig at Brixton in October 2009.

I was in two minds about Pixies recording new material, as was Kim Deal who told the band in a Costa coffee shop in Monmouth as they were recording again that she was leaving the band. ‘Indy Cindy’ were the fruits of those sessions which was a collection of good songs but not a great album.

So, like a Saucer crashing into Roswell we find ourselves in 2016 with a new Pixies album ‘Head Carrier’. Is it any good? No. It’s great.

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We kick off with eponymous title track which sets out the their agenda. The track and the album it gives its name to sounds like the missing Pixies album between ‘Doolittle’ and ‘Bossanova’ and this extends to the Indie Pop songs on the album. They can roll out the sweetness as Here Comes Your Man testifies. If there is perhaps a soft spot on ‘Head Carrier’ it is that there perhaps one or two many of them. Tenement Song and Classic Masher never quite hit the heights, but what Classic Masher does is soften you up for the following track.

Baal is Back just comes out of nowhere and sucker punches you in the guts. It’s Black Francis carrying on screaming with its arm around Debaser shrieking a drunken yowl into the abyss. I bloody love the track and can’t wait to see it live. I’m greedy and would have liked a bit more of this visceral thrash, but we also get the gonzo rock of Um Chagga Lagga resplendent with Black Francis’ screwed-up vocals effects.

Pixies 2016 find themselves with the third female bassist of their history. To lose one bassist may be regarded as misfortune, but to lose two…I do miss Kim, especially live. Once you’ve see her on stage, nodding her head with a shit eating grin on her face and a fag hanging lazily out of the side of her mouth there’s no going back. Yet new(ish) bassist Paz Lenchantin helps reinvigorate the band while glancing back at their legacy. No more so than on the track where she takes lead vocals, All I Think About Now, written about Deal. Is it a tribute when you rip of a former band mate’s best moves, even down to the almost trademark ‘Ooo ooos’ backing vocals? It’s on thin ice, but does manage to pull it off thanks to Lenchantin’s vocals and the slightly melancholy lyrics. I hope that when Deal does hear it that she’ll smile and take it in the spirit it was intended, even with the bass so far up in the mix.

The album finishes with All the Saints, which on first listen I thought took the album out on a whimper and not a bang, but after repeated listening it’s the perfect way to end the album. The song returns to the album’s inspiration St. Dennis of Paris (a sorta pious headless chicken). The song isn’t as ‘in your face’ as some of the others but slowly worms it’s way into your head.

You’ll  never get the shock of the new impact that ‘Surfer Rosa’ created, but that a band that can create an album this good, this late into their career should be celebrated.


❉  ‘Head Carrier’ by Pixies was released on 30 September, 2016 by Pixies Music/PIAS and is available from all the usual outlets.

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