Words About Music
In 1991, Pixies released their final studio album “Trompe Le Monde” which was a triumphant ending to a triumphant four-album-career. Personal conflicts resulted in a breakup that would follow the group well into their reunion, which began in 2004. After a few years of touring on and off, founding bassist Kim Deal surprisingly left the group. She was quickly replaced with Kim Shattuck and the group recorded an EP, some of their first new material in a decade. The EP was released to mostly negative responses (I was personally on the fence). Then, Shattuck was removed from the group after some apparently un-Pixies behavior (including crowd-surfing at concerts). She was then quickly replaced. Now Pixies are back after four months with a second EP, the aptly titled “EP2,” and I must say it is quite a bit better than the disappointing “EP1.”
“EP1,” while energetic in some spots, seemed to lack the visceral ferocity that was underlying even in Pixies softest tracks. In fact it felt more like a Frank Black solo thing than it did at all feel like the first full-length Pixies release in 20+ years. While this new EP is nowhere near perfect, it certainly doesn’t undo any of the band’s musical legacy in one fell swoop.
The first track on here is “Blue Eyed Hexe,” a loud, distorted song about some sort of witch-woman. I’ve never tried too hard to decode some of Black Francis’ lyrics, but what I do know is that he can still scream that blood-curdling scream of his, something I’d feared would never again be heard on a Pixies song. Maybe it’s a bit nostalgic of me to listen to new Pixies material hoping for a nearly 50-year old man to sound like he did 25 years ago, but it’s a part of this band’s catalog I’ll never tire of hearing. It actually warms the heart to hear Black Francis belt it out here towards the end.
The second track, “Magdalena,” is probably the low-point. This sounds more like a mid-period Weezer song if a hungover Billy Corgan sung vocals. It’s not very fun, especially after “Blue Eyed Hexe.” Thankfully, the EP is saved, sort of, by what Black Francis considers a stylistic sequel to the classic Pixies song “Gigantic.” Ironic, of course, considering that the person who sings that song left the band, but no matter. “Greens and Blues” is an upbeat song that would feel right at home on “Surfer Rosa” is the production value was decreased. Pixies have a huge influence over some of alternative rock’s best modern bands, and you can really hear that in this particular song. This sounds like the kind of thing Cage the Elephant wished they’d written. I can’t safely say that Pixies will return to their former greatness in terms of new material, but I can say with some confidence that “Greens and Blues” is currently as close as they’ve ever gotten. It’s a good song.
The EP concludes with “Snakes,” another song I wouldn’t consider a favorite but it’s still pretty good. I probably enjoy the instrumentation (I really love the layered guitar intro) and the overall sounds and textures on this track than I do the song itself. The slightly off kilter notes that Joey Santiago is known for using are very plain here and they also supply a subtle dose of nostalgia. It also has probably the catchiest chorus on the whole EP.
Overall “EP2” wouldn’t really be anything special if it was released by any band other than the Pixies themselves. There’s an obvious bias there, I know, but it’s hard to disagree. Especially after the disappointment of last year’s “EP1,” the songs on here are welcome additions to Pixies’ legacy and their repertoire. Perhaps the forthcoming “EP3” (and maybe even a studio album) will work to put the petty personal dramas behind the band once and for all and this new chapter of the band can have a great start and a proper finish. If this EP is any indicator, there are good things to come.
SCORE – 6.8
FAVORITE TRACKS – Blue Eyed Hexe, Greens and Blues, Snakes