Release date: September 30, 2016
The Pixies are an alt rock institution. The band’s pre-breakup albums are a textbook on creative rock that colors outside the lines. Songs ranged from the blissful pop of “Here Comes Your Man” from 1989’s Doolittle to the chaotic arena rock of “U-Mass” and the post hardcore “Alec Eiffel” (both from Trompe le Monde, 1991). The Pixies mixed classic rock sounds with punk rock disregard for the rules, and created something that changed the landscape of rock n’ roll. They are nearly singlehandedly responsible for inspiring the grunge bands of the 1990s. Since reuniting in 2004 the band has proved that they have lost no power or creativity with the passage of time, releasing 2014’s Indie Cindy to the rabid anticipation of fans both old and new. Head Carrier drives home that fact that the Pixies are less of a band, and more of a force of nature.
What this album does best is show that the Pixies have both improved with time, and remained true to their roots. The opening riff of the title track brings the listener right back to Doolittle while the verse is saccharin sweet pop. All of the classic elements of a Pixies album are in this song – Black Francis’ quirky lyrics and unique mix of crooned and shouted vocals, Joey Santiago’s inimitable guitar, David Lovering’s solid drumming, and bass guitar and backing vocals from Paz Lenchantin that are more than able to fill the role left by original bassist Kim Deal. Lenchantin’s perfect vocal harmonies on “Classic Masher” make it feel like Deal never walked away. She even takes lead vocals on “All I Think About Now,” a track she co-wrote with Black Francis. The song is an homage to Lenchantin’s predecessor that brings to mind Deal compositions like “Where Is My Mind” (Surfer Rosa, 1988). Despite a change in personnel, this album sounds like a classic Pixies release, and fits perfectly beside the band’s back catalog.
Head Carrier is full of outstanding songs. “Um Chagga Lagga” is a wild post-hardcore ride. “Baal’s Back” is raw, dark, quirky punk rock. “Talent” is a Pixies take on high octane rock that bears a bit of resemblance to Black Francis’ solo work, particularly “You Can’t Break A Heart and Have It” from 2007’s BlueFinger. As a longtime Pixies fan, I feel that Head Carrier is the strong album I had hoped for from Indie Cindy. While I enjoyed the band’s 2014 release, in retrospect it sounds like the chronicle of a band regaining their footing, while Head Carrier is a classic Pixies album from start to finish. This is album fans have been clamoring for since the band reemerged on the scene. Hearing the Pixies back and in top form makes the wait worth the reward.
Reviewed by Jim 1340