Review of Pixies’ newest effort and first fully original album since 1991’s “Trompe Le Monde”
By Carter Bagley
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Pixies were the indie darling that inspired bands like Nirvana, The Strokes, Blur and Weezer, but 1991 brought their band to a hiatus that would last until 2014 with the release of “Indie Cindy”. That album definitely wasn’t the greatest and a little underwhelming considering how long people waited for it. So naturally a couple months ago when the band released the lead single “Um Chagga Lagga” and announced this brand new album titled “Head Carrier” I was a little skeptic yet curious. The single wasn’t bad but it kind of sat with me weird. It was still passable though and I only really listened to it a few times before I got a chance to hear this full album just recently. The opening title track “Head Carrier” actually surprised me because I enjoyed it quite a bit. The guitar riffs by Joey Santiago are intriguing and catch your attention quickly and Black Francis’ vocals sound very much like late 80’s Pixies we know and love. Paz Lenchantin is the newest member of the band and proves herself well enough on the bass. “Classic Masher” however comes off as overly-produced and is still enjoyable in the background while you’re doing something else but it sounds like something that would play at the end of a cheesy family movie. The instrumentation on the third song “Baal’s Back” immediately gives you the impression that it’s much different than the previous track. David Lovering’s drums are hard-hitting and the instrumentation as a whole is very enjoyable but the vocals and lyrics got on my nerves pretty much as soon as they came in to the mix. Things quickly turn around again though on the next few tracks almost making a peak for the record and I found myself quite enjoying it for what it is. “Might As Well Be Gone” is a track that surprised me for how good it actually was. It’s a sweetly performed song with nice vocals by Black Francis and backing vocals by Lenchantin. If there is one thing I’ll remember about “Head Carrier” it’s this song and I can guarantee it’s one I’ll return to. “Oona” and “Talent” are both very listenable song but don’t reach the quality of “Might As Well Be Gone”. The former is catchy and has a nice chorus but “Talent” is the better of the two. It’s fast-paced and reminiscent of older Pixies in more ways than one. The lyrics are a little nonsensical but you kind of come to expect that. “Tenement Song” is another fantastic song and I also became more invested when I heard it. It has soft vocals and subdued instrumentation before exploding into the chorus that’s a bit repetitive but still holds your attention. “Bel Esprit” is reminiscent of it in tone but Francis and Lenchantin trade of singing lines through many parts of the song and it’s a very catchy song despite not sounding much like Pixies doesn’t really bother me because many of these songs would be regarded well if another band made them. The beginning of “All I Think About Now” immediately brings me back to the band’s classic “Where Is My Mind?”. This time Paz Lenchantin takes over for lead vocals and does a good enough job and it turns into a really collected relatable song that proves among some of the other that this band still has some potential. The lead single then comes on next and that’s “Um Chagga Lagga” and I still feel the same about it that I did when I first heard it. It’s not bad but it’s a definite departure in quality from most of the record. I do understand why they released it though because it sounds a lot like older Pixies but lacks the charm and the spark the band used to have. “Plaster of Paris” picks up where the rest left off however and turns out to actually be a very satisfying song. The guitar sounds very 80’s but not necessarily the 80’s Pixies sound if that makes sense, The vocals do very much but the instrumentation sounds more like something you’d find in a Galaxie 500 song. The album closer “All The Saints” is a nice closer and makes you feel a bit retrospective which is a good thing. The lyrics are sweet and the instrumentation sounds similar to the previous song and it’s short and sweet and closes on a peaceful note. This album is getting pretty mixed reviews and although it’s not great and plenty of the songs fall short, there’s still a good amount that surprised me and were actually good songs. Overall it was an intriguing album that didn’t necessarily bore me but it didn’t change anything up either. This really won’t appeal to anyone who doesn’t already like the band, it doesn’t reach the highs the band once hit and they probably will never reach them again, but is this a good enough effort? Yes.
Highlights: Head Carrier, Might As Well Be Gone, Tenement Song, All I Think About Now, All The Saints
Lowlights: Classic Masher, Baal’s Back, Oona, Um Chagga Lagga