When Pixies originally disbanded in 1993, their impact on rock music was well-solidified: Nirvana and countless other “alternative” bands wouldn’t have been a thing if it weren’t for albums like Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. Somewhere along the road, alternative/indie music took a wrong turn, and became a bit of a spineless creature, more focused on cred than actual music that went against the grain. By the time the band reunited in 2004, it seemed like the perfect reunion act, one that would dig up rock music that was somehow still perfectly relevant, unique and preserved, in a time when it felt better than most of the then-current stuff. It’s been a decade since that reunion took place, and they’re only now putting out a new LP: Indie Cindy. The time it took to get around to making it offers a hint on how urgent and necessary it sounds.
So, to get one thing out of the way early: no, Indie Cindy doesn’t live up to the band’s classic records. The music made by Pixies in the late 80s was vital, pure and simple like nothing else at that moment; this new record sounds anything but. It simply exists, a collection of functional songs, verses and choruses strung together by a some unusual songwriting choices here and there. With most post-reunion albums, one compliment that can easily be attributed is “it sounds like the band”, where the original essence is captured and repackaged in a new, perhaps slightly inferior product, but one that fans can still enjoy. In this case, half the music on Indie Cindy doesn’t even sound like the Pixies’ – and when it does, it’s not quite earth-shattering either.
Early on, a few songs do hold their own pretty well. The riff on opener What Goes Boom is the most likely to stick to your memory after listening, and the combination of the rhythm section and guitars on Bagboy is arguably better and more menacing than a lot of the material on their previous LP, 1991’s Trompe Le Monde. Cuts such as the title-track and Magdalena, along with the all-around great Blue Eyed Hexe, are examples of what could’ve made for a pretty good record. Unfortunately, the mellower, less impressive moments like Greens and Blues and Silver Snail become more common from the second half onwards, and water down whatever excitement that popped up during the first half. Mellow isn’t necessarily bad in the Pixies’ catalog, but the way Black Francis sings tracks like Ring the Bell or Andro Queen is downright sleep-inducing. Unlike earlier classics like Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf), most of Indie Cindy doesn’t carry a single ounce of threat under the surface, and it’s all too sweet, even cuddly, to be associated with the band’s name in the first place.
Though the group had been touring extensively almost every year since 2004, the four members seemed reluctant about making any new music together (and Bam Thwok doesn’t really count for anything). Black Francis had no problem releasing something like ten records in the intervening time, and even bassist/singer Kim Deal had a new LP out with her own act The Breeders. Regardless of the friction between the two singers, when the time came to write new material, Deal was “unhappy” and left, while Pixies carried on in the studio as a trio. But her absence isn’t particularly felt on Indie Cindy, and it’s hard to tell whether she could’ve improved the record at all. Though her songwriting did create timeless songs like Gigantic, chances are the chemistry that originally gave way to that is long gone.
To be fair, by the time the band released their third LP Bossanova, in 1990, it already felt like they had said what needed to be said; Trompe Le Monde merely added a few worthwhile moments to a near flawless discography. Nowadays, it goes without saying that it’s almost impossible for the band to make as much of an impact as they did in the late 80s, but it’s hard not to fantasize about how it could’ve happened. The current state of indie/alternative music is arguably worse than it was in 2004, and it’d be nice to see the band mercilessly steal the tropes of current acts and make them their own, in a way that actually excites people who don’t access Pitchfork on a daily basis. As it stands, Indie Cindy didn’t come close to that, and merely delivered a few tracks that sound good enough to spice up the band’s live sets – which have always been good, anyway.
After ten years, long have dissipated the fear and anxiety that come along with a reunited band making new music. Anyone holding their breath for so long should be dead by now; those left alive will only have to suffer some disappointment. Indie Cindy might not change much for the band, but at least it answers the question of what they would sound like when they finally made music in the 21st century. For as little as it adds to the catalog, at least it doesn’t diminish or mess with the legacy of the band. The fact that Kim Deal left even serves an excuse for purists, that this isn’t a real Pixies album, and therefore shouldn’t be compared alongside the previous ones. Regardless of that, enjoy the few great songs there are to enjoy here, and move on.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.