Let’s get one thing out in the open right from the off: Indie Cindy is by far the worst collection of Pixies songs to be given release. And collection is the word, because this isn’t even a Pixies album. It’s a rushed together, culmination of the last year and a half of what some band have been doing away from the stage; a far cry from the well thought out and inspired conceptual Doolittle. It’s three EPs worth of already commercially sold material condensed into one condescending package for the fanboys and fangirls who must have it all – a corporate cash-in, a meticulous money making scheme. What’s more, it’s as if the band thoroughly expected the reaction they’ve had and so drip fed this pale imitation of their former selves in order to soften the blow. And, it really is just some band: this isn’t even the Pixies. There is a severe lack of Kim Deal here. This is an alright band doing a pretty decent Pixies impression but just about falling short in every department. Verdict = hugely, unsurprisingly disappointing.
I’m sorry. I didn’t want to lead with that, apart from anything it is shockingly bad review practice. It just seemed appropriate to clear the air. Let me explain. Indie Cindy has been met with understandable backlash. It would be almost as entertaining to review the reaction to the album. The negative responses are mixed with vitriolic anger by 90s angst ridden teens-now-grown, enraged that their beloved has sinned against them, and young music lovers who have grown up hearing about the Pixies. For clarity’s sake, I fit into one of these groups: my embryonic growth was three years late for the release of Surfer Rosa. As someone who has been amazed at this bastion of Boston music in retrospect rather than growing up with them, it’s easy to remain calm and without anger. The Pixies mean a lot to people though, and so impassioned responses may be unwelcome to the apologists for this new material, but they are still inevitable. This is the band that David Bowie compared to the Velvet Underground in their level of influence – not everyone bought Pixies records, but everyone who did formed a band. This is the band that inspired Nirvana’s entire musical dynamic. This is the band that made it cool to listen to songs about aliens and damage to the environment and surrealism and religious violence. Numbed by diminished expectations, this is the band that you can have high expectations for and count on to deliver.
And so, Indie Cindy comes along and breaks hearts, not because it’s bad, but because it’s not good enough. However, these songs present a slice of Pixies, just not the entire gateau. ‘What Goes Boom’ has the space rock of a Bossanova B-side; ‘Bagboy’ is a modern take on the surrealism throughout their canon; ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ and the title track juxtapose the sunny melodies with the oddball lyrics. It’s all very Pixies, but like DIY, do it by number Pixies, not vintage, in their prime Pixies. It’s not interesting enough to produce the nightmarish images of ‘Broken Face’ or ‘Cactus’, but it’s too weird to be inoffensive mainstream indie rock.
I love the Pixies, and I’m able to accept the positives. While there is nothing here that builds on their considerable legacy (that damning word), there are some nice melodies, and it certainly sounds like the Pixies, even if it isn’t really. It fills that gaping Pixies shaped hole that has sustained since they stopped making new music. Would we have all been happier if they’d continued with their incessant touring, popping up every couple of years for a burst of nostalgia? Or is this new music, no matter how underwhelming, at least a sign of life in the old monster? Considerable comparisons can be made with My Bloody Valentine in this respect, but the major difference is that m b v was challenging and progressive, expanding upon the foundations laid many years ago. Indie Cindy is, by contrast, tired, repetitive and watered down. There are things here that do hint at their greatness; Black Francis didn’t become a terrible songwriter overnight. Call it laziness or a lack of awareness of their own meaning, but isn’t it better that this is here now? It may be washed up and unimpressive, but it’s a reminder that one of the most important bands in modern music are still here and, if nothing else, might open up their weird and wonderful world to a whole new generation sitting on the train with earphones on reading Kurt Vonnegut and watching Eraserhead screaming I WANT TO BE, BE A DEBASER!!!
It is just under a month until I attend Primavera Sound in Barcelona, at which the current iteration of the Pixies will appear. I always thought that if I ever saw a band this dear to me in the flesh, I would feel nothing but unimpeached excitement, and that they would deliver. Now, having listened to Indie Cindy, I’m asking myself whether I want to see the Pixies on those sandy beaches at all.
I’m not really sure whether to condemn this record or praise the legacy that it is a reminder of; it is not bad enough to hate, but it’s not a good enough representation of the talent involved either. Sometimes I listen to it and tap my toe, other times I realise that it is just a string of nonsense words and a catchy guitar riff – that does not a Pixie make.
Music today lacks the danger and will to run away with imagination – imagination that you can feel in Santiago’s mazy guitar and Francis’ gut wrenching screams. Indie Cindy does not damage the legacy of the Pixies, they are too important to music for that, but it does sound like a last ditch attempt to bring Pixies spirit into new music by a group of ageing rock stars. It’s no surprise in hindsight that Kim Deal, an integral part of this outfit, implied her refusal to be attached to this record by packing up and leaving. If this was a band once known for its careless abandon, now the Pixies seem satisfied to exercise a careless abandon to be average.