Indie Cindy (Pixiesmusic)
by Scott Deckman
Wow, so they went and did it. I was hoping with the tepid and even downright awful response to their new EPs they’d take the hint, and maybe at least wait another year or so and write some better music, go in a different direction, try something else… or just stop. But no, the Pixies went and released their three EPs as a proper full-length, Indie Cindy, the title lifted from the song of the name on EP-1, probably the most annoying number in their entire catalogue.
Frank Black once lamented a similar response to The Cult of Ray, a subpar-but-decent release after a run of five great albums in a row – and that’s not five very good albums, but five great albums in a row – saying something to the effect of “It wasn’t Metal Machine Music or anything.” Metal Machine Music, of course, being Lou Reed’s bewildering 1975 offering of 64 minutes of harsh, discordant noise. (I myself was really let down by The Cult of Ray upon its 1996 release, but in hindsight, it’s not quite the disappointment I thought it was.) While not in the Metal Machine Music universe, let alone ballpark, the utter blandness of Indie Cindy is in some ways worse. At least Metal Machine Music was an artistic statement. (Or, more likely, one of the major label bird-flips of all time. Reed himself once said he never made it all the way through it, but he was probably joking.)
Since I’ve already reviewed two-thirds of Indie Cindy on this site through EP-1 and EP-2, I don’t feel the need to rehash those songs, so I’ll stick to the ones I haven’t written about. And to be honest, they’re not even as good as the high points of those two releases.
“Bagboy” was first issued as a single in June of 2013, and like “Indie Cindy,” it suffers from Frank Black Spoken Word Ailment, and as with that track, the good chorus doesn’t quite make up for it. For whatever reason, the near-50-year-old version of Black trying to be the cool poet doesn’t resonate; it feels like he’s taking the piss, a facile hipster P.T. Barnum. Knowing Mr. Francis, he’d probably glow at the compliment, well, the comparison to Barnum I’d imagine. And no, that’s not Kim Deal on backup vocals, but Jeremy Dubs, a kid I actually met and saw play at Frank Black and the Catholics shows back in the late ’90s.
“Silver Snail” features opaque lyrics and a slow (really?) arrangement. “Ring the Bell” has a decent chorus and ’80s sheen more akin to Tears for Fears than the Pixies, but it’s mostly lackluster. “Jaime Bravo,” a song about the noted bullfighter of the same name, is a mid-tempo jaunt with mildly interesting guitar work from Joey Santiago. Sentiment aside, it doesn’t exactly inspire more listens or hope for Pixies Future. The friendly “Goodbye and good night” chorus might be a sweet epitaph for Bravo, who died fairly young before he became really famous, but also an unwitting omen for the band, too. “Andro Queen,” “Another Toe in the Ocean” (“Another Toe” on EP-1) and “Magdalena 318” (“Magdalena” on EP-2) remain the best of a mediocre bunch.
And it didn’t have to be. As an artiste supreme, Frank Black Francis has earned the right to do whatever he wants to do (listen to how pretentious that sounded. Of course he does. So do me and you and everybody else). But here’s the sad part, the shitkicker upside the head at closing time – from behind, where you couldn’t even defend yourself if you tried – they left out “Women of War,” which was released as a single this past Record Store Day – April 19, their best song since Trompe le Monde. (Incidentally, nothing on this album is as good as the Deal-written-and-sung “Bam Thwok” released in 2004, either, penned for Shrek 2 – and rejected – or not). “Women of War” features a beautiful chord progression that one immediately associates with the erstwhile 4AD underground stars, or at least Frank’s Teenager of the Year. The song has a Surfer Rosa/Bossanova feel, imbued with that unmistakable Santiago magic. Very good song, and you can download it for free at their site (hurry, it likely won’t be there forever).
“Women of War” sounds much more like classic Pixies than anything on Indie Cindy, but that’s not the point. The song is actually good. After an uneven run through those two Nashville records (which, in fairness, had merit), Frank proved he still had it (and then some) with Bluefinger, SVN FNGRS and Nonstoperotik, and while some numbers on those albums had a Pixiesish stamp, especially on Bluefinger, most of them did not. They didn’t need to, because he was creating exciting, fresh, at times even unique art. Indie Cindy is competent indie/alt-rock, nothing more. Not what anyone should expect from the true Alt-Rock Kings. If there is a next time, let’s hope Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering, and whoever’s playing bass remembers that.