May 15, 2014
Indie Cindy: The Pixies’ Chinese Democracy moment
From the anguish greeting Indie Cindy, you’d never suspect there was a time when a long-established rock act could release new(-ish) material without pissing off half the world. Negative buzz on the Pixies’ first new album since 1991(!) comes hard after loss of first founding bassist Kim Deal then the abrupt firing of replacement Kim Shattuck. This rolling bummer was but prologue for news that all tracks on this long-delayed follow-up to Trompe le Monde have already appeared on a string of recent EPs greeted with general indifference if not hostility.
This is a serious freight of bullshit to bear before dropping the needle or pressing the play button. Once you’re incautious enough to do either, what emits from your speakers is only average mid-Nineties MTV headbang aided little by lyrics like “You put the cock in cocktail, man!” On the title track and elsewhere, the Pixies’ signature ragged rampage is displaced by stagy riffing in no way superior to the stuff Mark E. Smith of the Fall has been putting out every few months for the past three decades. Frontman Black Francis’ voice sounds tired and hectoring, like a senior accounts executive after bitching hard on the phone all day. More melodic numbers run from agreeable (“Magdalena 318”) to forgettable (“Silver Snail”) to unbearable (“Another Toe in the Ocean”) with still-lighter fare like “Andro Queen” coming off as proggy and “Jaime Bravo” as prissy, but the whole adding up to a monstrous WTF. Mainstream critical consensus hovers at “mediocre,” but Indie Cindy sucks by any standard, especially the Pixies’ own.
Don’t count on this Chinese Democracy moment to plant these alt-rock pioneers in the Guns ‘N Roses section of the rock boneyard. By the time their latest big-money tour winds down, most hardcore fans will have forgotten everything but the single “Greens & Blues,” assuming such charmlessness can stick to anything at all. On the brighter side, Francis now thinks of the Pixies as more of a day job, his true avocation being writing graphic novels. And they say Wayne Coyne is having a crisis.