1 November 2016
Pixies - Head Carrier
This is a look at the sixth album from the Pixies, a band that should be well known to many and rightly revered for their first three albums which are legendary. These words are ones that are thrown around too easily (even by yours truly at times), but when it comes to ' Come on Pilgrim', 'Doolittle' & 'Bossnova', there is no other word more fitting to describe those albums. That is not saying that 'Trompe Le Monde' or 'Indie Cindy' are not good albums, but they have one hell of a mountain to climb to be considered in the same league as their previous works. 'Indie Cindy' (review cleverly linked here) was an album created during the split from Kim Deal, recorded with Simon "Dingo" Archer on bass. At the time, I gave the album an eight, lamented about the fact that the songs were just the previous three EP's released as one record, but it ended up working out better than the EP's as the tracks flowed better. Since that album was released, they hired Paz Lenchantin on bass (who previously played with Zwan, A Perfect Circle and she has made guest appearances with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Jenny Lewis and Melissa Auf der Maur. A second album from this reunion was always on the cards, you felt it coming and it is great to see that they are still wanting to create instead of resting on their laurels. But how has this turned out? Is it a worthy edition to the legacy of this band, or is it a dud?
01 - Head Carrier
The tale of St Denis, the patron Saint of Paris who had his head cut off for spreading the word of God and upon his head leaving his body, picked it up and walked for 10km's whilst preaching before finally dropping dead (as the legend goes, there is also another tale where he was just killed and his body buried by his followers in secret). Musically it is a song that you can easily identify as a Pixies song, some might say it is a little by the numbers, but when did that become a bad thing when you are the band in question? As an opening, it is decent and has a great hook; at worst, it is a little too slow for an album opening, but that is not a surprise at all with this band.
02 - Classic Masher
In a classic rock 'n' roll style, 'Classic Masher’ is a proto-type Pixies number and it is a simple tune. It starts off a little slowly, but soon enough it is rattling along and the 'toot-toot' line is a classic Pixies hook. Is it light weight? Yes, but again that is not a bad thing at all.
03 - Baal's Back
Now they are pissed off here, it is an explosive number from the band here as Frank is screaming his lungs out. There is always something beautiful when they unleash this sort of track on the audience, it hints at some past glories in the sound which has a mixture of 'The Holiday Song', 'Planet of Sound' and 'I'm Tired' with its own special riff and tone. It is another track which is hard to hate on, but it is not as essential as other music I have heard from the band.
04 - Might as Well Be Gone
Reading between the lines is something that people always going to do, this one could be all about Kim Deal leaving the band, it could be able a relationship when someone might as well be a ghost for all the effort that they put into the relationship. Whichever way you cut it, the band take a lot of the energy of the album and put it to the side on this number. But it is needed a bit, you need to mix up the sound on a record and this one is a breather than was required (even if the album is not going supersonic). I love the riff on this song, it just digs its way into your head and I have found myself singing this when my mind is drifting elsewhere.
05 - Oona
It is not exactly a sonic leap from 'Might as Well Be Gone', but 'Oona' is another surf rock influenced number that could easily be about Kim Deal once again, or it could be a metaphor for a relationship as it is starting - who really knows when it comes to Frank Black and Co at times. It is another slow-paced number, a decent hook and it sort of drifts by each time and does not leave much impression. But it is not a bad number either, just one that is doing anything wrong either.
06 - Talent
Thank fuck for this song, it explodes out of the blocks from the beginning and it takes this album out of the slump it was heading towards and gives it a kick up the arse it required. The second song to be released as a single, it is fast, punky, shouty and with a classic Pixies solo and noise, the chorus is brilliant, the lyrics are brilliant and it is an instant classic for me! One of the best songs of the album, hands down.
07 - Tenement Song
Another instant classic, one that shows the other side of this band as perfectly as 'Talent' shows off the darker, nastier side of the Pixies. 'Tenement Song' is the third single to be released from this album, it is as strong as anything they have released before and it has another gentle riff, a hook in the chorus that will get the faithful singing and it has enough strange in it to make everything work.
08 - Bel Esprit
A duet between Lenchantin and Black, this song about a man who is willing to go anywhere and is a bit of a show off. The vocals are beautiful entwined together and they add an uplifting feeling to the song as well; however, it is not exactly the most exciting and sort of drifts by without some much as a bye or leave which is a bit of a shame.
09 - All I Think About Now
This is the song that people have been waiting for, this is the one which looks at the parting of the ways with Kim Deal. It sounds like a reworking of 'Where Is My Mind' in places, the vocals of Paz Lenchantin are beautiful on this one and the fact she actively sort out to sing a song about her predecessor is admirable and needs to be applauded. She is singing the words that have been co-wrote with Frank Black and delivers them with humility and honesty. It is a beautiful song, one which is rightly being hailed as an instant classic for the band and it gives the most lasting impression of all the songs on this album.
10 - Um Chagga Lagga
This was the first song to be released off 'Head Carrier' and I can see why that happened, it is a cherry bomb in music form, an explosion that will start a mosh pit in an empty room and it swirls around that world and speakers which some strange lyrics and gibberish that only sounds correct when it is created by the Pixies. It is strange, aggressive and I love it!
11 - Plaster of Paris
The penultimate song of this album is one which takes a few spins to reveal itself, it is a strange number to say the least. Once again, Frank Black is heading into his usual uncharted territory with his lyrics on this one, musically it is a slow number with a fast drum beat; listen to it, the guitars are slow and the drum has a driving beat that sticks in your mind. Another song which is decent, but it is not essential if we are honest here.
12 - All the Saints
Ending the album is this slow and haunting number, which talks about Saints and people who are no longer in the world and why the protagonist of the song is still in the world. I think this song could have been given a few more beats to be honest as it ends a little too suddenly. The beginning had such promise and then it just sorts of ends with a strange note, not a good place to leave it, but that is the way that things have played out.
This is an album which I like, but I still feel that it is missing a little spark of energy that has made other works by the band unique and special. At least in the first half of the album as it takes a while to find its footing and that almost derails this record into a non-essential, for the die-hards only release. The problem with the Pixies is that they are the Pixies and that means that (rightly or wrongly) they are held up to a higher standard than many other acts and everything they release will be held up to their earlier works when they were fierce and young. But I am also glad they did not try to recreate their earlier work (to a certain degree), they tried to make a Pixies album for now and they stayed true to themselves. Now I have mentioned Kim Deal during a few songs, did her shadow hang over this album? A little bit, but Paz Lenchantin did more than enough to stamp her own voice to her work and I have a feeling that on the next one, she will have more to say and it might change the dynamic once again (which can only be a good thing). But what is my overall impression? I like this record, it is a good one and it is worth investigating; however, it is only a good record and one which needed a little bit more energy in places.
7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.
Top track - All I Think About Now
You can purchase Head Carrier on Amazon here.
You can visit the Pixies website here.
You can follow the activities of the Pixies on Facebook here.
You can stream Head Carrier on Spotify here.
You can stream Head Carrier on Deezer here.
You can stream Head Carrier on Tidal here.
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