Pixies – Indie Cindy (2014)

Don’t let the name fool you: These Pixies are raucous, loud and sometimes vulgar, but they are fun and make great music. Indie Cindy is their first album in, well, a very long time — over 20 years, in fact. But it is a journey into Pixiedom which is both enjoyable and profound.

“What Goes Boom” opens the album with a strong triplet riff baseline underpinning the lyrics. There is a reggae feel to the song’s phrasing, perhaps due to the fact that Black Francis admits to Eddie Grant being one of his influences. It builds to a climax and a grinding bass riff. “Greens and Blues” follows, and this is in a slightly gentler mode — almost a ballad but set over gyrating, rhythmic music with a groove breaks in the middle sections. That lifts it, and make the song work. Black shows a remarkable vocal range.

The title track opens with an instrumental section, after which the riff and its blinding lyrics are set off by steadfast music reverberating underneath. The lyrics were written in a branch of Starbucks (where Black also wrote the lyrics to “Break My Body,” over 20 years before). He describes them as something of a poetic rant. “Bagboy” has a wonderfully strong beat and great guitar work. The final section of interacting vocals by the band is wonderful. “Magdalena 318” evolved from a jamming session, and is a rock number whilst “Silver Snail” has sublime melodies, riffs and lyrics. It evolved from a picture of a painted silver snail, which Black created with his son. He was reminded of that certain artistic frame of mind you get into when creating something and this inspired the song. It also refers to the darker times for the band back in Massachusetts.

“Blue Eyed Hexe,” with its screeching vocals, is solid — though there’s perhaps an over use of the cowbell. This is followed, ironically enough, by “Ring The Bell,” which is in great contrast. This was written from the viewpoint of a man who has been out in space for years and returns to the island of his birth — in the Indian Ocean — to see it once before it sinks beneath the waves. The bell is rung whilst men empty boats to raise them above the rising waves. “Another Toe in the Ocean,” has lyrics which refer to drinking and alcohol: “I have a drink; I start to sink another toe in the ocean.” Black also was influenced by a lady he met in Iceland who could see the “little people” — the real Pixies perhaps?

“Andro Queen” is about a person Black knew and has a meter borrowed from a 1955 song by Buck Ram called “The Great Pretender.” It has a recurring rhythm and is almost a ballad. “Snakes,” another song which came out of a jam session with Joey Santiago and Black, is about snakes taking over a town. A song born in the studio, it is riotous and fun. “Jaime Bravo” is based on a Mexican Bull fighter of that name who was flamboyant and lived a rock-star lifestyle. He was killed in a car crash in the early 1970s. Joey says he is pleased with the lyrics, as he feels they tell his story well.

Different from earlier Pixie albums, Indie Cindy is more mature than 1987’s Come on Pilgrim and more structured than 1991’s Trompe Le Monde. The intervening years have seen the band undergo personnel changes around the central members, and those difficulties are well documented, but this album represents the Pixies well: It has excellent rock music, along with energetic vocals and the occasional injection of softer sensitivity (but not for long). Indie Cindy interweaves influences from a range of genres into a definitive Pixie presentation.

It is not perhaps an album to take you into the realms of the sublime – there is a sense of the band being on the edge of something extraordinary, that there is more just under the surface. Indie Cindy needs a couple of listens, because the lyrics are often key to understanding the songs on this album — and there is a sense that this is The Pixies at the beginning of a new ascendancy.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

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Sammy Stein