A whole 23 years after the release of their last studio album, the Pixies have collaborated with long-time producer Gil Norton to bring us Indie Cindy – though with the notable absence of original bassist Kim Deal. Breaking up in 1993, after the run of genius that was Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe le Monde, the band reformed back in 2004, with Deal eventually leaving during recording sessions last year. Branded as an album and not a compilation, Indie Cindy is made up of material that has been released over the course of the last year, kicked off by the single ‘Bag Boy’ and followed by EP1, EP2 and EP3. The result is a mixed bag, with the Pixies never quite reaching the height of their late 80’s/early 90’s glory, though not for lack of trying. In fact, Francis, drummer David Lovering, and guitarist Joey Santiago, are most at fault when attempting to recreate the inherent danger and grit of their early work.
Throughout most of the record, Francis strays away from the shouty singing heavily featured on the Pixies’ back catologue. Instead, spoken-word vocals are employed on the verses of ‘Indie Cindy’ and ‘Bag Boy’. Deal’s presence is sorely missed during the latter, mostly due to the imitator seemingly trying to do their best to recapture her vocals – credited as Jeremy Dubs. Any Pixies album without Deal is bound to feel like it has something missing; the way her often haunting backing vocals bounced off Francis established her presence as one of the reasons that the band stood out amongst others. This isn’t the biggest issue with Indie Cindy however, as Deal’s prominence dwindled during the Bossanova and Trompe le Monde stages of their early career anyway.
The record’s major problem is apparent from the opening song, with ‘What Goes Boom’ being a pale imitation of the Surfer Rosa-era of the band. It does its best to recapture the menace and edge of their debut album, and ultimately fails. The same goes for parts of ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’, which is overall a bit of a shambles – the repetitive refrain is pretty generic, the use of woodblock borders on silly, and the opening guitar riff is way too reminiscent of the much more successful ‘U-Mass’ from Bossanova. Despite these misteps, this is by no means a terrible album. Indie Cindy offers many redeeming qualities, particularly when it doesn’t feel afraid to venture into a more relaxed and matured sound.
The standout track by far is ‘Greens and Blues’, and the fact that it is also arguably the simplest track says a lot. Over the acoustic guitar chord-strumming, we can hear hints of the space rock that was a highlight on Trompe le Monde through Santiago’s electric guitar and Francis’ crooning lyrics; “I said I’m human but you know I lied, I’m only visiting this shore”. Logically, this is what a Pixies record should be sounding like after the release of Trompe le Monde and the long gap between albums, and its a triumphant addition to the album. Songs like ‘Andro Queen’ and ‘Ring The Bell’ may anger some longtime Pixies fans due to their seemingly restrained nature, but they definitely seem to be where the band is most comfortable – something that should be embraced. Both solid songs, the brief Spanish in ‘Andro Queen’ reminds us that this is the Pixies we know and love, and fortunately doesn’t feel at all forced.
During the titular ‘Indie Cindy’, there is a moment where Francis does seem to try and force the weirdness of old upon us; “I’m the burgermeister of purgatory”. Aside from this, this is probably where Francis is at his most vulnerable on the record, as he begs “Indie Cindy, be in love with me”. Along with the slight playing around of the soft/loud dynamics that made the band famous, this proves ‘Indie Cindy’ to be a great track. ‘Magdalena 318′, another one of the album’s stronger efforts, also makes good use of dynamics, with Santiago’s heavily distorted guitar underscoring Francis’ more tender vocals. ‘Silver Snail’ is a track that proves that the band doesn’t need Kim Deal in order to create music that contains an element of haunting beauty, but it can be fairly argued that the Pixies will likely never be the same unless she returns. Nonetheless, Indie Cindy proves that 28 years after the inception of the band, the Pixies still have some genuinely great music to offer. It seems they need to focus on evolving themselves as a band however, instead of trying to reclaim the exact abrasive sound that they once had.
Indie Cindy was released on 28th April by Pixiesmusic.