It's been an interesting nine months for Boston indie legends Pixies. The release of the free download Bagboy in June 2013 triggered fevered anticipation that the band might be ready to make their somewhat tentative comeback a little more permanent. Around the same time, they lost one of the big personalities in the band when Kim Deal decided she wanted out; a succession of replacement bass players have been shipped in and moved on just as quickly as the band continued to play live, releasing a series of three EPs in a relatively short space of time. All of this stimulated huge debate on online forums and blogs; for some, Pixies without Kim Deal just isn't Pixies while the new material seemed to polarise fans and critics alike. Influential music website Pitchfork scored the first EP a measly one out of ten, before going all out with a generous two rating for the next EP. Others were more welcoming, but the constant drip feed of new material seemed to have worked against them. By the time they reached EP3, interest seemed to have peaked.
All of this does not exactly bode well for Indie Cindy, the band's first album release since Trompe Le Monde in 1991. The fact that the album just collects all the recently released EPs together on one record offers no further grounds for optimism, but here's the thing - it works, occasionally spectacularly so.
Listened to as an album rather than hearing snippets of the EPs here and there, Indie Cindy is easily the equal of 1990's Bossanova or their final long player Trompe Le Monde. It doesn't quite reach the classic standard of earlier albums Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, but very few contemporary rock albums do. It is also one of their best sounding records to date. Producer Gil Norton has done a fantastic job in beefing things up - this is an album designed to be played with the volume turned up to ten, not listened to through a pair of tinny computer speakers. The album has been sequenced particularly well, spreading out the highlights across the 12 tracks; there are at least five songs on this record that sit comfortably with the very best of the Pixies back catalogue.
'What Goes Boom' starts the album with a bang - Pixies 2014 have something of the metallic sheen first displayed on Planet Of Sound, with guitarist Joey Santiago reprising the kind of fretwork that made him one of Rock's most inventive players when the band were in their heyday. Title track 'Indie Cindy' sees Black Francis adopt full preacher mode in the verses before giving way to a gorgeously airy chord sequence in the chorus - two starkly contrasting sides of the band in the one song.
'Bagboy' is something of an oddity; when it was first released, it left fans a little unsure, Francis spouting nonsensical lyrics over a vaguely baggy beat before an ear splitting chorus reminds us that we are still in Pixie Land. Listened to in isolation it seemed to suggest a new direction, but here, surrounded by more typical Pixies fare, it makes a lot more sense. The intro of 'Blue Eyed Hexe' is pure AC/DC - the ghost of Angus Young looms large. The track itself is an absolute belter with Santiago bending and shredding his way through one of the albums real highpoints. Closing song 'Jaime Bravo' finishes the album on a triumphant and vaguely euphoric note with sunny harmonies and a melody that feels like Pixies at their most uplifting.
If you are predisposed to the notion that Pixies without Kim Deal are a busted flush or that they had their moment with Doolittle in 1989, then chances are Indie Cindy won't rock your world. But listened to objectively this is more than we could have reasonably hoped for, a chance to journey once again through the wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful world of Pixies Rock.
Review by Paul Page | FOUR STARS
Indie Cindy is released in Ireland on 25th April.