Pixies’ new album, Head Carrier, is an energetic punk romp, that calls back to the band’s classic sound. Pixies, who first formed in 1984 and released hits like ‘Here Comes Your Man’ and ‘Where Is My Mind’ before breaking up in 1993, reunited in 2004. A year after the departure of beloved bassist Kim Deal in 2013, the band released their first comeback album, the critically unacclaimed Indie Cindy. Now it seems they are aiming to reclaim their old flair with Head Carrier.
The album, the first written and recorded with new permanent bassist Paz Lenchantin, is chockfull of crunching distortions and singer Black Francis’ elastic vocal style, who covers everything from rough AC/DC screams in ‘Baal’s Back’ to breathy begging in ‘Oona.’ Lenchantin, much like Deal before her, brings a high youthful-sounding voice to the mix, contrasting nicely with Francis during their frequent duets.
While the album as a whole is a fun listen, albeit without much discernible flow, certain songs stood out. ‘Classic Masher,’ a catchy and light-sounding track full of scathing, socially awkward yearning showcases the chemistry between Francis and Lenchantin’s voices. It is a sharp contrast to the following song, ‘Baal’s Back’ a short, screaming number with demonic undertones (“You don’t know that you’re a sacrifice/ All my love has turned back into ice/ People, when the sky is turning black/You’ll know that it’s me.”)
The whole tone of Head Carrier seems deliberately similar to old Pixies tracks, as if the band is pushing as far away from Indie Cindy as they can. ‘Oona,’ a grungy song about fascination, both musical and personal (“Please, I wanna be in your band, Oona I will await destruction, … My owner, I’m Oona’s”) has a similar ethos to tracks off their 1989 album Dolittle such as ‘Debaser,’ ‘Monkey Goes To Heaven,’ and ‘Hey.’
Meanwhile, ‘All I Think About Now’ unabashedly takes the riff from ‘Where Is My Mind’ and turns it into a song about being stuck in the past and the regrets that pile up therein. Perhaps it is about Deal, (“If I’m late can I thank you now?/ I’m gonna try anyhow/I remember we were happy /That’s all I think about now”) perhaps it is nostalgic for the heady days past, but either way, it is an interesting choice to have new member Lenchantin sing it by herself. Her airy voice lends the tune an etherial quality, a stark contrast with the heavily distorted instrumentation.
Head Carrier is an energizing and entertaining album, that while a bit mired in recapturing the golden days, is nevertheless fun and interesting in its own right. It drops on September 30th. Listen to it here.
Words: K. Hules.