Album Reviews

Pixies – Indie Cindy

on May 01, 2014, 12:02am
Pixies - Indie Cindy C-
Release Date
April 29, 2014
Label
[PIAS] Recording
Formats
digital, vinyl, cd

“But everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band,” Brian Eno once said about The Velvet Underground’s meager-selling debut. It might be even more hyperbolic to equate that level of influence to twisted alt rock progenitors the Pixies, but I still can’t help but imagine professed Pixies fan Kurt Cobain listening to “Gigantic” and scribbling notes. “I really remember thinking, ‘That is such a Pixies rip,’” Dave Grohl once confessed about “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. “It was almost thrown away at one point because it just seemed too much like the Pixies.”

The extent of the Pixies’ influence on the ‘90s alternative rock boom can be debated, but practically nobody — critic or fan — questions the band’s body of work. That incomparable late ‘80s/early ‘90s run of Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe Le Monde, a bizarre brew of melody, quiet-loud dynamics, oddball lyrics, and kitchen sink vocal deliveries, still delivers an abrasive euphoria that’s hard to explain and impossible to ignore. It’s that rare discography capable of changing how you hear music. So, really, it wasn’t all that surprising when the original lineup of Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering reformed as a touring group in 2004 and found that legions of fans old and new awaited their return.

The last couple of years have taken a peculiar turn, though. While unabashed reverence for those 20-year-old albums remains intact, it’s become popular to pick on the present-day Pixies, as if the band members weren’t responsible for building that legacy, only tarnishing it. Some perceive touring for nearly a decade on old material a simple cash grab (though, can 10 years still be considered a “grab?”). Others bemoan founding bassist Kim Deal leaving the band last summer and cry foul at replacing her with another Kim (Shattuck) and then finally with Paz Lenchantin in a game of musical female bassists taken directly out of Billy Corgan’s playbook. Most recently, though, the band have endured a fairly uniform online lambasting — with charges of treason, sacrilege, and Pixies-less-ness thrown in — after finally releasing three EPs of new material. Textbook case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Unfortunately, Indie Cindy may make you wish the band had left well enough alone. Dubbed an album (not a compilation), the record merely assembles all the tracks from EP1, EP2, and the just released, but long ago leaked, EP3. If you give a damn about Pixies, you’ve heard all of these songs already, and no fresh album art, re-sequencing, or magic conjured up by the letters ‘L’ and ‘P’ placed next to each other is going to change your opinion on them. Either you’ve already banished these songs from your iPod and memory or, like me, set aside that overshadowing back catalog and tried to appreciate Cindy’s redeeming qualities.

It’s not as though you won’t recognize Francis and Co. here. Trace elements of the Pixies do surface throughout: barked verses and melodic choruses (“Indie Cindy”); a toned-down take on that soft-loud yin and yang (“What Goes Boom”); and occasional slips into Spanish (“Andro Queen”). Sorely missing, though, are the unnerving tension, eccentricities, sense of imminent peril, and trade-off between precision and recklessness present in classic Pixies records. The absence of Kim Deal’s backing vocals (that’s an imposter on “Bagboy”), which could create tension by echoing, countering, or undercutting Francis’s parts, doesn’t help matters, but the problem stems beyond a lineup shuffle. It’s an incredibly tame and polite record, which is hard to accept from Pixies. Indie Cindy feels like paint-by-numbers when we expect Black Francis to hone in upon that imperceptible orange in the ocean or green in the sky.

Consequence of Sound’s own Steven Arroyo offered sound advice when he suggested bypassing the new Pixies cuts that try for gritty and menacing (“Blue Eyed Hexe”, “What Goes Boom”). The band sound far more comfortable and convincing on the album’s lighter fare (“Andro Queen”, “Ring the Bell”). The uncharacteristically straightforward “Greens and Blues” revisits Francis’s obsession with extraterrestrials (“I said I’m human, but you know I lie/ I’m only visiting this shore”) and charms on the back of a simple acoustic strum and Santiago’s sunny day, seaside guitar work. Ironically, it’s through an alien’s eyes that Francis actually seems normal — here, self-doubting and summoning a brave face once realizing a connection he cherishes can’t last (“I’ll leave you alone, fade from your mind/ Slip into the greens and blues”). Likewise, “Indie Cindy”, once you get beyond barked lines like “I’m the burgermeister of purgatory,” hinges on a simple, gentle plea for love and acceptance (“Be in love with me/ I beg for you to carry me”) from either a woman or maybe even listeners.

And it’s in that spirit of understanding and acceptance that Pixies fans might be best served to simply accept that Cindy ain’t Rosa and never could be. Sure, you can wallow in disappointment that this record ranks a distant fifth alongside the band’s classic LPs, but don’t allow yourself in the process to miss out on a handful of worthwhile songs.

Essential Tracks: “Greens and Blues”, “Indie Cindy”

20 comments

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Anonymous
May 31, 2014 at 3:35 am

“ring the bells” is definately not “Pixies” sound…
Indie Cindy, and What goes boom is “Pixies” but of course not as good as the old songs.
Magdalena and Bagboy are nice.
Greens and Blues – this is completely new sound,. I like it very much. but it is not Pixies. sounds like the band how did “bohemian like you” and played that song about Kim Deal.

Kim is missing but they can still rock!!

American Pancake (@AmericanRobb)
May 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I thought the “paint by numbers” analogy is, frankly, undeserved. Other critics have said that this record does not sound like the Pixies which is an incredibly inane comment. If the Pixies started doing Polka music that music would sound EXACTLY like the Pixies. I suppose if Charles would of written songs that were on par with, let’s say Surfer Rosa then you might then argue that those songs would of been so alike as to be a “paint by number” record. Clearly, a lot of people want artists to grow and change as they get older but are not all that accepting when they do. With the exception of Blue Eyed Hexe, I think Indie Cindy is a remarkable album. Thoroughly engaging and surprising. The main surprise is that the Pixies have evolved into a band that can still create weird art rock proggy songs right along side more mainstream indie pop songs. “Ring the Bell” to me, has that kind of lush pop sound in that ELO vein. It is beautifully rendered. I won’t go on about what I like about the record. Feel free to check out my full review if you like. The main thing I would like to say is that the Pixies iconic place in history will and could not ever be tarnished. It is set in stone. Nuff said.

Anonymous
June 13, 2014 at 6:57 am

Totally agree too many wanna be critics that are blinded by trashy pop songs too appreciate quality music and lyrics refreshing I say

Rob
May 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm

This review was much more measured than others, but like many other comments below I have to disagree with the assessment. Does this album equal Doolittle or Surfer Rosa? Of course not. Would it have been better with Kim Deal? Sure. But is it a great record and better than anything else I’ve heard recently? Definitely. I think it does rank up there with Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde.

Every song on this album is a great song. I find it interesting how every reviewer seems to prefer different songs – I’ve read different reviews where the writer variously prefers the agression of What Goes Boom, the straightforward rock of Another Toe in the Ocean, the melancholy of Magdelena, or the pop of Ring the Bell, and trashes the rest. That speaks to the variety on this record.

Black Francis has said that he approached this record by imagining that he left the Earth for 20 years and then come back to the Pixies. I think that worked in a sense – this is definitely more a Pixies record than his solo work, made more so by Joey Santiago’s absolutely brilliant guitar work throughout the album. But what I like about this record is that it incorporates some of the best elements of Black Francis’ maddeningly uneven solo career – the straightforward songwriting and sense of melody. These songs are more restrained and less menacing than early Pixies work, but they add a layer of depth and maturity.

For them to have come back with Doolittle 2 and more loud-soft-loud would have been formulaic, and they would have become a caricature of their former selves. Instead, we get great songs and as far as I’m concerned the musical world is much better for it. I don’t think that’s faint praise – instead the reviews are unfair damnation for an album that would rate an 8 or 9 coming from any other band.

Eric Boehm
May 4, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Anyone listening objectively and ranking the Pixies’ albums would have to put the uninspired Bossanova dead last, not Indie Cindy… It may be fashionable to wax nostalgic for the classics and bash the new material, but it’s a solid return to form and, personally, I’d rank ‘What Goes Boom’ and ‘Bagboy’ among my favorites. I’d also rather listen to any track on Indie Cindy before ‘Velouria’.
Either way, I was happy to see them reunite and play again, I love being able to look forward to new material and I haven’t been let down yet.

Billy le Golfeur
July 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Bossanova an “uninspired” worst album? Huh? WTF – Don’t confuse opinion for fact; it is a great art-record which informed the sound of Indie Cindy, and stands up with the first two albums, many would agree… It is Trompe le monde that got away from the sound & broke the band, by the way…

It’s curious to see in these comments that when certain Pixies songs and albums are put upon a pedestal, there is an overwhelming need to throw down and trash other songs and albums within the same breath. I don’t get this. When considering the scope of their influence and their originality, this need to rag on something in the catalog – at all cost – is unwarranted.

The only criticism of Indie Cindy that I saw that was really damning, was somewhere someone reported Charles basically said something along the lines of: ‘screw the art; I’m only in it for the money’. …At last though it’s troubling, after hearing this album, I think the Pixies are earning whatever they make. Forget nostalgia and ‘legacy’ pretensions and all that bullshit – Indie Cindy is a good album, one of the best rock albums of 2014.

Jay
May 4, 2014 at 12:51 am

Horrible review! I don’t care if you hate the Pixies or are a huge fan of their “legacy”, it is a great thing that they are doing. The music on Indie Cindy is some of the best music recorded in the past couple of years. I’ve been waiting for new music for a long time and every song exceeded my expectations. Even though most of the tracks sound like a FB/BF solo track, the missing elements of Joey’s guitar and Dave’s drums complete the tracks and makes it “Pixies material”. Their new music is going to influence a new generation of musicians! I also have no problem with how they release their music. Would you expect anything less from them? The Pixies are amazing and I hope they release a lot more material before their time is up!

Matt Melis
May 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

Thanks for reading. I’m glad they’re recording again, too.

All the best…

makingleftturns
May 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm

All the sh*t slinging on the new material is dumb. Those talentless ass clowns at Pitchfork gave EP1 a 1.0 rating. And this article says it won’t join that party but it does. In spades.

So let me school you. The EP’s/LP is very good. These are good songs performed the way only Pixies can. What this EP/LP doesn’t Try to do is compete with their prior stuff. All you simplistic Children want Doolittle II and that’s not going to happen.
These are good new songs, that are what the Pixies currently are. I do miss the female angle
Kim brought to the songs but in no way are the songs bad.
Let’s try some originality in your POV or we
Can write the site off as Consequence (we sniff Pitchfork’s codpiece) of Sound.

Matt Melis
May 4, 2014 at 10:44 am

Thanks for reading. Education received!

All the best…

Scott Hester
May 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Haven’t heard the new album yet, perhaps setting low expectations will make me like it more. On ITunes you can buy it along with a recent live show. I don’t expect the Pixies to be the same as they were 20-25 years ago. I hope they record more, I know Frank can still write great songs, my favorite album of his in the past decade or so is ‘Show Me Your Tears’ with the Catholics. As for Kim, well, she’s gone, doesn’t mean the other guys shouldn’t try to make new music.

Hassan Cheema
May 2, 2014 at 1:29 am

Wasn’t It 10,000*

helas
May 1, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Excellently written review. You described the context into which a new Pixies record falls very well, and I agree totally.
I’m trying to take a guided by voices approach. Was GBV a great band? Absolutely. Was every song or album great? No way, but we understood the talent in the band was worth following for the ride. Though it is sad to realize Pixies are not the infallible beast we thought they were, here’s hoping it’s a misstep and they’ll be making more music soon.

Matt Melis
May 2, 2014 at 12:16 am

Thanks for reading, Helas. I’m glad they’re back making music together, and even if it only helps energize the live show, nothing wrong with that.

All the best…

dan
May 1, 2014 at 6:01 am

This site consistently plays both sides. I’m not particularly upset with this article. As much as I love the Pixies I hate to say I agree with most of it. My issue is COS releases an article weeks before the album is released including the Pixies as a band that’s tarnished their legacy, then this article refers to how public opinion puts them in a no win situation in regards to new material. COS consistently takes a stance, claims its news, and then comments on their own opinion. They have an article on Hole’s “Live Through This” talking about how the media has gone overboard in the shaming of Courtney Love after spending months making fun of her with different articles and follow it up by making fun of her in the next one. By the way, I’m not for giving this album an “A” just because it’s the Pixies but it would be even sadder if they just tried to run it back and recreate the time and space that were the original Pixies albums. I mean they are people and I would assume they’ve grown and evolved in 20 years.

Matt Melis
May 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Hi Dan,

Thanks for reading. To your point, while CoS strives for a uniform vibe, we don’t expect all of our 50+ contributors to hold the same opinion. News is news. Our news team runs the stories we think our readers will want to and need to read. Major reviews, like a new Pixies album, get kicked around the office, and we reach a consensus. Most of us agreed it was a below average album, so we feel comfortable putting that type of review and grade out there.

As for a piece like the Destroyed Legacy article, I personally don’t agree with what was said about the band there. But I like the fact that our site gives voice to several different viewpoints–some I inevitably won’t agree with; I also appreciate that I can use a review–which, let’s face it, this music has already been reviewed months ago by us and others, so I had some extra space–to defend the band a bit against what I consider to be unfair criticisms.

Same goes for the Courtney Love example. News have recently run a few stories reporting on things that show her in a negative light. But I love that Paula Mejia wrote that Hole article showing how Love inspired a generation of women rockers and makes us at least have to question modern gender roles. Take both sides–the controversial public figure and the inspiring female musician–and make of it all what you will. It’s great for conversation.

We at CoS all agree on one simple thing: we love music and want to bring all types of music to the table for discussion. We also agree that it’s okay to disagree once we come to the table.

And, yeah, I agree with you and another poster that maybe it’s a good thing the Pixies didn’t try to replicate what they did in the past. How successful could that have really been, and perhaps I would have missed out on the “new Pixies” cuts that I enjoyed.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this interview. Our own Randall Colburn plays straight man to Charles, Joey, and David. (Fast-forward to 4:55).

http://consequenceofsound.net/video/rock-it-out-blog-a-conversation-with-pixies/

All the best…

Brad Halverson
May 1, 2014 at 4:02 am

I liked this album quite a bit more than you did, but I applaud the approach you took in this review. The Pixies legacy is IMPOSSIBLE to live up to, and even if Indie Cindy was considerably better, you’d still hear plenty of detractors stomping their internet feet and complaining about how a “legacy” is being defiled. Whether you like it or not, the music belongs to them, not us. They’re allowed to disappoint us all they want, and in an age where you never HAVE to pay for music to hear it, complaining about this kind of thing is ridiculous.

And you’re right about the slow songs being the best. It’s appropriate that the “new” Pixies are at their best when they’re not worrying about sounding like the “old” Pixies. I sincerely like this thing. I feel like the pressure of having the Pixies name to live up to has forced Frank to edit a little more thoroughly than he has on his last few solo albums.

Matt Melis
May 1, 2014 at 4:22 am

Brad, thanks for reading. I’m glad you dig the album. And I’m sure you’re not alone. Black, Joe, David, and even Kim knew what they were getting themselves into when they decided to record again as Pixies. Who knows what we’d have gotten had they tried to act like 20 years hadn’t elapsed; maybe I wouldn’t have gotten the songs I care about from this album. Either way, the recent interviews the remaining three have given have all pointed to one fact: they still love being in this band. Good for them, and I’m more than happy to listen to anything in the future with the Pixies’ name on it. Enjoy listening.

All the best…

Malloallo
May 1, 2014 at 2:06 am

How original. Let’s start with a hackneyed quote about the Velvets, and then proceed to trash a band for having the audacity to record new material you’ve likely listened to once. The Pixies recorded seminal stuff over 4 cracking LPs. They can do what they want, regardless of the trite criticism.

Matt Melis
May 1, 2014 at 2:31 am

Thanks for reading. Of course they can do as they choose. And, yes, “4 cracking LPs,” indeed. Doesn’t make this a great record, though. That’s why I encourage folks to ignore the back catalog and enjoy the bright spots here. It pales in comparison to the old stuff but still offers some worthwhile Pixies tunes.

One listen, though? The bulk of this stuff has been out for months. It would take a serious effort not to have heard this stuff by accident around the office at least four times.

Curious what your favorite (or, I’m guessing, favourite) tracks are.

All the best…

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