A funny thing happened Saturday morning when I was listening to Pixies' EP2. The third verse of "Blue Eyed Hexe" hits and Black Francis is shrieking in a high register. From across the room my wife exclaims, "...is this AC/DC?!" It was hilarious since just awhile back in our Punknews story on the "Blue Eyed Hexe" video (and I can't believe I'm about the reference a commenter in a review), Fuckyou6666 wrote, "Does anyone else think this song sounds a lot like back in black? Seriously reminds me of AC DC". I had even brought that comment up on the Punknews Podcast that week. Oh, Pixies.
In all seriousness, "Blue Eyed Hexe" is a solid track. The guitar tones pumped Francis and Joey Santiago's amps are nice and crunchy and strike hard along with the cowbell-propelled beat by David Loverling. The screaming in that third verse shows that Francis has his heart back in this band once again. To me, other than the cleaner, thicker production (again from Gil Norton), the song sounds "classic Pixies." And, in their defense, the verses are in 7/4 and AC/DC never wrote a goddamn song outside of 4/4 in their lives.
EP2 has the advantage of being the second of these new releases. Many critics and fans were unnecessarily harsh on the decent set of songs on EP1. Kim Deal's departure was heartbreaking to many, myself included, and indeed the lack of her voice leaves a hole in the Pixies' sound. And like I said before, the production separates this from their old material right off the bat. But it would be odd if this new stuff sounded like Surfer Rosa, with all the technological advances in the recording industry. It's not like they're using auto-tune either--I don't think you could auto-tune Francis' vocals to save your life. With EP2 having a three-month buffer after the first, we've had time to get used to fact that the Pixies are back in full force. Plus, these four songs are stronger than the first four.
Second track "Magdalena" is a downright great addition to the Pixies catalog and I feel will eventually stand up against time-tested "chill" Pixies tracks like "Where is My Mind" and "Velouria." The chorus has been stuck in my head all week: "Magdalena / You're the meanest / Magdalena / You're the leanest / Magdalena / Sweet Magdalene". Simply and sweetly sung, each line chased with spacey "ahhhs," these vocals really do it for me, not to mention Santiago's use of awesome Moog guitar pedals. "Greens and Blues" has a triumphant aura about it, with an acoustic intro quickly stepping aside for dual electric guitar melodies, sliding around each other. The midtempo groove transitions into a catchy, albeit not sugary, chorus. Living up to its title, "Snakes" slithers through its verses, employing more odd time signatures, thumping through alternating pairs of 4/4 and 3/4 measures. The chorus has Loverling pounding four-on-the-floor snare and kick with Francis crooning, "Snakes are coming to your town / In tunnels underground / Some traveling overground… There'll be nothing to do / When the rattle shakes.".
The same problems that people had with EP1 will remain: the production, no Kim Deal, yadda yadda. But at this point, we should be opening up to the idea that the Pixies are really back. These are good songs. Will they still be good, or grow to be great, when they are 20-25 years old too? We'll have to wait and see. But for now, I'm diggin' 'em.