In 2004, Pixies teased us with the one-off track “Bam Thwok,” a ragged, weird little jam that reminded us of what we loved about the Pixies of yore. Then nothing until a couple months ago, when they dropped “Bagboy,” their first song without Kim Deal on bass. This worried me. It was weird too, but not in the best “Pixies” way.
Now suddenly we have the new EP1. Opener “Andro Queen” comes as quite a shock, with Frank Black’s vocals so clean and compressed you can’t even tell it’s him until the bridge when he shifts to a speaking voice, talking in Esperanto no less. The guitars offer a cool ambience with a ton of reverb and tremolo, but it doesn’t necessarily scream “Pixies.” “Another Toe,” honestly, is an enjoyable tune with thick guitars and a nice falsetto hook in the chorus. But again, this seems like a different band, with the exception of some ghostly wailing background vocals near the end, a signature trick. On one hand, it’s been forever. Can we fault the band for changing? On the other hand, they’re using the Pixies name, so they know people are going to expect something resembling the sound they’ve come to know and love.
Single “Indie Cindy” sounds the most like “classic Pixies” in the set, with a laid-back groove and Joey Santiago’s clangy guitar line that goes from pretty to evil before the verse hits. Again Black starts it off spoken, but it gets real pretty in the chorus. Taken at face value though, it’s an enjoyable song with a rad spastic guitar solo in the middle, plus some crazy Black lyrics like ”You put the cock in cocktail, man!” Closing it out is “What Goes Boom,” a more raucous and dissonant number that’s enough to get your hopes up with vocals gritty like they should be, but more chuggy than scrappy like we’d like.
Kim Deal’s absence is felt strongly here. Replacing a bass player is one thing, replacing her vocals is impossible. They were such a big part of the Pixies, her sweet voice balancing out the roughness of Black’s. We don’t get any female vocals since new bassist Kim Shattuck from the Muffs isn’t on the record. The bass credit goes to someone simply named “Ding.”
If you stack this up against all the Pixies’ previous output, it leaves a sour taste. But if you judge it simply on its own merits, it’s a not-half-bad set of somewhat generic indie rock. There are some elements to enjoy here, but you’ll want to put on Doolittle right after.