Here’s an experiment. Track down Derren Brown and get him to wipe all knowledge of the Pixies' reunion from your mind. Now listen to EP2 with no knowledge of who is behind it. What do you think? How do you feel? Weirdly, your first thought is unlikely to be 'ooh, this sounds like the Pixies!' It does of course, but in the field of indie rock so does pretty much everything - you can’t do this sort of punchy, quirky guitar pop without the Pixies being in the background. The EP's Pixies-ness isn’t especially remarkable. You’d certainly applaud the off-kilter sensibilities melded to the face-melting riff on ‘Blue Eyed Hexa’, you’d marvel at the honey-dipped hooks that dribble sweetly across ‘Greens and Blues’ with its sexy, chiming guitar, clockwork chord progression and gorgeous chorus, and you’d nod enthusiastically to the grungey, poppy groove on ‘Magdalena’. You’d conclude that this was an impressive little package, and you’d be fairly interested in where it had come from.
And then you’d be told it’s the Pixies and weirdly everything becomes a bit less exciting, a bit less impressive, a bit less delicious. We apply a different set of standards to our ‘great’ bands, which is of course deeply unfair. Not every song can be ‘Debaser’, not every album can be Surfer Rosa. A band that have skirted pretty close to perfection can be forgiven for easing themselves back in, which is why these short, almost under-the-radar EPs must seem so appealing to them. When and if a new Pixies album does come along, many will expect the second coming: dribbling material like this is a clever way to circumvent those expectations. Still, what constitutes feeling their way back for the Pixies would be mightily impressive for a lesser band.
Following on from last year's EP1, this a tougher, leaner Pixies than that of their classic era, missing some of the ramshackle charm on which their most well known work floated. Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, especially, always felt moments away from disintegration, a shade between masterpiece and mess, which the quartet always pulled off by the skin of their teeth. There’s no such tension here - this is a slicker, and more metallic set, taking fewer risks and hitting fewer heights. Musically its cues come from Trompe Le Monde and the scratchier end of Black Francis’ solo output, with ‘Blue Eyed Hexa’ built on an almost Jack White-ish stomp and a bloodthirsty vocal, while a kind of disquieting, melancholic pop is at work on ‘Magdalena’ which makes it the most uncompromisingly ‘Pixies’ moment here. Closer ‘Snakes’ is another odd one, a propelling beat allowing guitarist Joey Santiago to lay a brilliantly messy anti-solo between killer Frank Black choruses. It’s great. The jewel in the crown is ‘Greens and Blues’, the one moment here that creeps in the direction of the big Pixie-pop touchstones of yore, the ‘Here Comes Your Mans’, and ‘Gigantics’, the latter of which has a spirit deliberately mirrored here.
7Marc Burrows's Score