March 25th, 2014 12:21pm
I’m Wasting Your Time
On some levels, it is disappointing or even upsetting that there’s new Pixies music at all. They had a small, unimpeachable catalog and a very clean creative arc and career narrative, and that sort of thing strongly appeals to the OCD nature of fans and critics. It’s nice for things to start and end. It’s nice to not dilute “the brand” with weak material.
But the Pixies are actual human beings who are working musicians, and they’ve got to pay bills just like the rest of us. If you look at the situation objectively, they didn’t really have a choice. The market has made it abundantly clear to Black Francis that lots and lots of people are eager to pay to see Pixies shows, but not so much Frank Black shows. People are even less interested in new Frank Black records. It’s safe to say that David Lovering and Joey Santiago don’t have a better gig lined up. Kim Deal left because she did have another option, but that other gig is basically just going on a really long reunion tour with The Breeders where she just plays their most popular records in full. (If you think that is in any way cooler than actually making new music, please reconsider your priorities.) So if the Pixies have to keep touring indefinitely, they needed to make new music or lose all dignity by just playing the same set over and over again for the rest of their lives. If Black Francis was going to write any new songs, they’d have to be Pixies songs. And here we are.
The songs on the three Pixies EPs that have been released in the past few months aren’t nearly as awful as you may have heard. For the most part, the songs are just OK or actually pretty good if you’re not grading them against classic Pixies material, i.e., some of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. Only one of them, “Indie Cindy,” is actively embarrassing. The rest is the work of a songwriter who is past his prime but still knows how to write a decent song, and is deliberately working in mode that evokes the sound of his glory days. The new Pixies songs are very much Pixies songs, and really, the only key element of that band’s aesthetic that he’s not working with here is Kim Deal’s backing vocals. But really, Kim’s voice is barely on Trompe Le Monde, so this material is really just picking up where they’d left off.
The absence of Deal’s voice isn’t catastrophic, but it strays from something that made Pixies extremely compelling – the implied sexual tension between this nerdy, aggressive dude and this smiling, distant woman. This is what makes Doolittle such a perfect and unique rock album – on top of the melodies and dynamics, the songs just dig into this odd psychodrama about lust, body horror, and self-loathing. That tension isn’t in the new Pixies music, and it’s not really replaced with anything else. It’s mostly just music for music’s sake.
The two best songs from the EPs are “Blue Eyed Hexe,” which is the most loud and aggressive track, and “Greens and Blues,” a ballad that Black Francis has said was in some ways intended to replace “Gigantic” in the band’s setlist now that Kim has left the band. There is a superficial similarity between “Greens and Blues” and “Gigantic” – similar bass line, it rises and falls in about the same way – but it has a very different mood. It’s more melancholy, it’s less bold. It’s a very well made song, and feels very “Pixies” while feeling like something that he might not have written back then. As far as I can tell, it’s about meeting some kind of mer-creature or an alien, but it still feels like it’s coming from a more adult place than a lot of the classic Pixies songs. It really captures a feeling of not really belonging to the world, but sorta wishing that you were.
Buy it from Amazon.