Head Carrier


PIAS, 2016


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Evidently, I was one of the few critics who actually liked Pixies’ 2014 comeback effort Indie Cindy, but perhaps that’s because I don’t worship at the altar of Doolittle like they do. Yes, Indie Cindy was comprised of three four-song EPs and recorded without founding bassist Kim Deal, but much of it was still darn good rock music, albeit in service of an approach different than what guided Surfer Rosa all those years ago.

New bass player Paz Lenchantin is now a full-fledged member and the other three Pixies remain on a songwriting tear, and so two years later Head Carrier aims to continue the story…from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Trompe Le Monde, the original band’s final effort in 1991. Immediately the sound, style and attitude springs from that era, with the interesting experiments and detours into convention of Indie Cindy shelved in favor of a more straight-ahead garage rock approach…albeit played by three dudes in their 50s and a talented bassist in her forties who has played with A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan project.

 Much like Indie Cindy, though, the music is full-bodied and immediate, full of loud guitars that roar instead of buzz and drums that pound instead of click, and it sounds great. “Head Carrier” is full Neil Young – the route that all alt-rockers from the ‘90s inevitably wind up on, if they don’t fade away first – and it’s a delight. Black screaming his way through “Baal’s Back” is hardly necessary but a lot of fun for fans of the original quartet of Pixies classics. “Might As Well Be Gone” probably sounds the most like the past and suffers the most for it; looking backward is not this band’s strong suit.

There isn’t a moment of wasted space here; at a sinewy 33 minutes, the dozen songs touch on the sounds of the past but, for the most part, don’t revel in them or pretend it’s still 1990, and this is what makes the record work. Head Carrier barrels through its highlights, from the title cut to the short jangly “Talent” to the rollicking “Um Chagga Lagga” (the most fun song here) to the Deal tribute “All I Think About Now,” which rivals (on purpose) “Might As Well Be Gone” for track that sounds most like past glories.

In that moment, hearing a woman’s keening voice against teeth-rattling buzzsaw guitars, you realize these are still your Pixies, maybe older, a little grayer, a touch slower, but they’re back. And if a few of the songs aren’t quite on the same level as the highlights (“Plaster of Paris,” “All The Saints” and “Tenement Song” fall a bit short), the disc as a whole is exhilarating fun from one of the original greats.

Rating: B

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© 2016 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of PIAS, and is used for informational purposes only.