Pixies

Indie Cindy

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Unlike the slew of legendary acts -- including My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, and Daft Punk -- who surprised fans with new albums in 2013, Pixies emerged from their lengthy recording hiatus more cautiously. By releasing a series of EPs that were eventually collected as Indie Cindy for 2014's Record Store Day, the band eased fans into their new material -- and, perhaps, gave them time to lower their expectations. Indie Cindy may be most notable for illustrating the pitfalls genre-defining artists face when attempting a comeback: Pixies had such an impact on how indie rock sounded in their wake that upon their return, it's almost inevitable that they sound like they're aping themselves. It doesn't help that the band's first new material in almost a quarter-century is also the first without founding bassist Kim Deal (her insistent eighth notes are mimicked by session player Ding). However, her absence is the least of Indie Cindy's problems. "Bagboy," the reunited band's first single, features a collision of drum machines and surreal spoken word that suggests a failed collaboration between David Lynch and LCD Soundsystem -- but at least it shows some creativity. It's more worrying that much of Indie Cindy feels like it was written to fit specific niches: "Blue Eyed Hexe," a "U-Mass"-like rocker, proves Black Francis' scream is still spine-tingling, but the song plods. Even if the album just isn't as nimble as the best work from Pixies or Frank Black, it feels like what the band would be doing two decades on from their peak even if they hadn't taken a break. Aside from "Snakes," which tempers the biblical post-punk of their early work into something resigned instead of vengeful, most of these songs continue the sci-fi riff rock of the band's later albums and Francis' first two solo albums (producer Gil Norton even suggested that the bandmembers pretend that they'd spent their hiatus touring in outer space). "What Goes Boom" sounds like a beefier version of "Alec Eiffel," while "Indie Cindy"'s mix of shouty, stream-of-consciousness verses and dreamy interludes recalls Frank Black's "Los Angeles" more than his Pixies work. The least contrived songs are the best: "Magdalena" creates tension between its heavy guitars and soft vocals in a way that's less expected than the band's famed loud-quiet-loud dynamics. Meanwhile, "Greens and Blues" combines the album's spacy motif with heartfelt songwriting and lyrical guitar work from Joey Santiago, who also helps elevate "Jaime Bravo" and "Ring the Bell." Still, there's no escaping that Indie Cindy is an odd return. It plays more like a collection of B-sides than a true album, and it's laced with goodbyes and a sense of sadness that feel more like closure than catching up. Arguably, it fares better as a decent Frank Black album than an anticlimactic Pixies album, and fans who can appreciate that these songs don't diminish the legacy of the band's previous music will probably enjoy it the most.

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