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.