Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Pixies - EP1

Kim is back! Wait, no! This isn't Kim Deal... Pixies original incarnation did include Deal when they reformed in 2004, but Deal actually left before releasing any new music as Pixies. Frontman Black Francis acted fast to replace Deal, with Jeremy Dubs taking over Deal's vocal work on their first single in years: "Bagboy". Although we didn't cover it, "Bagboy" has been played in my ears numerous times. It just doesn't have the importance or long standing tradition that Doolittle would have on a 90s kid. Even as a fan, Pixies and "Bagboy" are unable to make a successful 'return' as Deal isn't actually included on the recording. Apart from that, "Bagboy" sounds like the needed first step for Pixies to get back in to the creative process of recording new songs. 

With Deal out and Kim Shattuck of The Muffs in, Pixies went about releasing an EP, simply titled EP1, although Come On Pilgrim is in fact their first EP, but whatever I’ll let that slip. "Bagboy" signified a hard rock / alternative come back from their Bossanova period. Faced with EP1, well it changes everything. "Andro Queen" opens the door wide open for dream pop, neo-psychedelia. Francis' vocal has been reverberated which goes against his usual abrasive fast talking vocal that made Pixies such an iconic band with Surfer Rosa. It's a well-structured song that gives Francis' vocal a new calling card. The dreary vocals and soft touch rarely gets presented through Pixies' work, a good start to the band’s first official non-single release in over 20 years. 

But what makes a song, a Pixies' song. "Andro Queen" has been played by Francis in his solo sets for the past few years. Without David Lovering's drum ideas and Joey Santiago's fantastic guitar riffs, this is just another Black song. It's obviously been recorded by the band, but taken from Francis' backlog of writing. I'm sure he hasn't stopped writing songs for a Pixies album since 1991. Long-term producer Gil Norton has let the team down on "Andro Queen". You can barely hear the important percussion from Lovering's drums, Francis' vocal is far too quiet, this could be to do with the fact he isn't shouting for once. The guitars are layered to suit the moody instrumental, but too loud compared to the other instrumentation. This is a re-occurring issue with EP1. The single "Indie Cindy", although it tells an interesting story, fails to warrant a single status. The lead guitar riff sounds like Black Sabbath, in the wrong way. Francis talks fast, great, but the structure change is just too much too soon. It goes from the lead guitar, Francis' rebellious tone and a typical Pixies speed merchant rock structure to this soft velvet pop chorus, taking on a similar chord progression as "Andro Queen".

Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, EP1 obviously doesn’t have the Boston twang most Pixies releases feature. Instead, there's this strangely off-putting general rock feel. It's as if Pixies are trying far too hard to achieve their past sound in the studio, without going the extra mile to retain Deal. "Another Toe" has the best hook on EP1. Other than that, "Another Toe" is your average American radio rock song that Steve Wright would happily play in the afternoon on Radio 2. There's no killer loud riff from Santiago, that's what's missing here. Capped off by the metal track "What Goes Boom", EP1 leaves the listener feeling... Heartbroken. Apart from "Andro Queen", EP1 passes by without any interest. That's hard to say because I am indeed a Pixies fan; this just isn't at all good. It's too general, too many straight forward rock guitar riffs without extended screeching or breaks. No bipolar backing vocals, no "hips like Cinderella." Pixies announced EP1 along with the idea to release small EPs over the coming years. I welcome this, because an album right now in their current form would be atrocious.

"Andro Queen" is the standout track. It has great vocal delivery from Francis and fantastic effects on the lead guitar from Santiago. Its production is off, but the idea is there and I hope Pixies look back at "Andro Queen" and decide to follow it up with more of the same. As for now, it's back to the drawing board to find that developes sound they're searching for.


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