PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Pixies: Head Carrier

Two years since their Indie Cindy release, Pixies have brought rock ’n' roll back with their new album, Head Carrier.


Head Carrier

Label: Play It Again Sam
US Release Date: 2016-09-30
UK Release Date: 2016-09-30

Two years since their Indie Cindy release, Pixies have brought rock ’n' roll back with their new album, Head Carrier, which maintains the Pixies’ sound we all know and love, while also shaking things up at times by moving away from the standard formula. The Pixies have come together to create a something that truly embodies their art.

Although both Black Francis and Joey Santiago stand in the forefront (with great guitar work), David Lovering and the group's newest addition, Paz Lenchantin, provide fantastic filler and drive with drums and bass, respectively. As far as the lyricism on the collection, there is potential all over the place for sing-along jams. There’s a simple beauty to the lyrics to be found; it's nothing complicated that'll make you scratch your head, but there's certainly a lot that's open for interpretation. From the very start, Head Carrier holds onto the essential sound that makes the Pixies the Pixies, and as a result you have acts that either become repetitive or successfully experiment while remaining true to the trademarks. As a whole, it makes for a delightful shake up of a nostalgia-based sound.

Opener “Head Carrier” has the fuzz we are all accustomed to with the Pixies, and it comes mixed with heavy yet relaxing bass; meanwhile the guitars shift into brighter and catchy moments alongside the vocals. Later, “Classic Masher” takes a slight step forward in adding to the brightness and appealing more with its poppy nature, while “Baal’s Back” is a welcoming change of pace, as we get our first set of screaming vocals and much harder instrumentation.Afterward, we have a couple of tracks that play off the same formula as the first two songs. This track is one of the more prominent pillars of sound that the Pixies typically play to, yet what helps is that they own the style while still throwing in a variety of others.

“Talent” is one of those songs on the record that will stand out to every fan. One of the fastest and probably the catchiest song to be found here, it is guaranteed to make a crowd rage and bang heads during live performances. It's a great chill/surf-rock jam. In contrast, a song that was made and released to promote the album, “Um Chagga Lagga”, feels messy; it comes off more like a track that wanders aimlessly than it does a successful portrayal of fun madness. As for the two ending tracks -- “Plaster of Paris” and “All the Saints” -- both have similar tones (gentle atmosphere), yet while one feels welcoming, the other feels out of place. Neither of these songs are bad, but one after the other throws off the suspense that could have been made.

Though Head Carrier does a good job of sprinkling different sounds throughout the record, it would be even more refreshing to have seen more of them. With the way the tracks are laid out, there ends up being multiple songs in a row that permeate with that core that the listener is aware of since the beginning; it can potentially make the listener jumpy when they’ve already gotten to hear other sounds off the album and looking to hear what else is to be offered. While the sequence of songs usually doesn't determine if an album is horrible or excellent, it can falter or enhance the time of the listener, not to mention any stories attempting to be conveyed.

Starting after “Tenement Song”, the album repeats the same energy, and misses moments to rope the listener back in. The majority of this album is well crafted material, and after listening to it in full, there is that wonder of how it might play out differently if tracks were reordered. For instance, what if there were more heavy tracks, like “Baal’s Back”, or more bright songs, like “All I Think About Now”? What if one of the more gentle and soft tracks came in before the halfway point, and the record ended with something like “Talent”? The parts are there play well, but they are just a few notches from a solid drive to the end.

Head Carrier doesn’t necessarily reinvent anything, but it is a solid sum of what rock ’n roll can be: fun. With fine musicianship, the Pixies have crafted an easy to follow and enjoyable rock album able to encompass multiple sounds. The only strong fault to be found is in its chemistry, which at times can throw the listener’s ear off. At the core, though, the music is good and makes for a dish of a well crafted, if jumbled up, material. What is essential to note about Head Carrier is that the music comes from the hearts of artists who wanted to take the time to make something meaningful; in each of the song’s fun and stories, that energy and care can be found.

Pixies are an essential rock band and will remain so for a very long time. With this return, they bring a breath of fresh air into modern rock music. For a band that started in the mid-'80s, it's amazing that the Pixies are still going strong. All in all, Head Carrier is a collection of lessons, experiences, sounds that exemplify the essence of fun rock ’n' roll.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.