On their third post-reunion album, Pixies do what they failed to on Indie Cindy and Head Carrier: suggest a way forward for their music. Too often on those albums, it felt like the band was trying to live up to someone else's expectations of what they should sound like. On Beneath the Eyrie, however, it sounds like they weren't trying to please anyone but themselves; paradoxically, the results are their most engaging set of songs since they reunited. Instead of caricaturing the best-known (and most copied) elements of their sound, they build on different, more versatile sides of their legacy. In particular, they take inspiration from some of the darker pages of Doolittle's and Bossanova's songbooks. "Silver Bullet" revisits the Wild West of "Silver," and when it switches from a moody ballad to a lunging rocker, it's startling in a way that the band's well-known dynamic shifts haven't been in some time. "Graveyard Hill" is the latest incarnation of the dark feminine that's inhabited Pixies' world since "Is She Weird." While its tale of a witch who brews a deadly love potion might be almost too on the nose, it's got more bite and energy than many of their other previous attempts to re-create their magic. Similarly, "Los Surfers Muertos," a lethal lullaby sung by bassist Paz Lenchantin, carries some of Bossanova in its undertow but never seems heavy-handed. This more organic feel allows the band to embrace the spirit of Black Francis' music, in all of its guises, on Beneath the Eyrie. On the surly, stomping "This Is My Fate," the Dutch angle of Joey Santiago's solo is pure Pixies, yet its autoharp flourishes and playful percussion nod to latter-day Frank Black albums. When Francis howls about going down "on a Selkie bride" over surf-garage riffs on "St. Nazaire," it calls to mind the Celtic fixations of Honeycomb and SVN FNGRS. More importantly, Francis and company find new ways of being strange. They get surprisingly psychedelic on "Ready for Love," which drifts off on cloudy tangents, and "Long Rider," where they contrast familiarly chugging choruses with spacey verses. What holds all of Beneath the Eyrie's disparate elements together is its focus on death, dying, and what lies beyond. The album plays like a collection of memento mori, spanning the jangly yearning and folky storytelling of "Catfish Kate," the supernatural grudge-bearing of "Bird of Prey," and the gentle acceptance of "Daniel Boone," a ballad unique in Pixies' body of work for its quiet vulnerability. Spookier and more fun, as well as looser and more cohesive than the band's two previous albums, Beneath the Eyrie isn't just the best Pixies 2.0 album to date -- it suggests they just might be stepping out of the shadow of their legendary past.
Beneath the Eyrie Review
by Heather Phares