When we saw Pixies return to the scene last summer, everything moved in a bit of a blur. With the departure of Kim Deal came the immediate release of “Bagboy“, the first new Pixies offering since the Kim-led “Bam Thwok” single of 2004 (which was the only original release from Pixies since they broke up in 1993). But with “Bagboy” out the door, Black Francis promised a trilogy of new Pixies EPs to make some fresh waves on their upcoming tour with a new bassist. “Bagboy” was a classically odd Frank Black track, starting out an electro drum track and spiraling into a free association collection of tell-offs. The first new four track EP came in September, led by the stellar single “Indie Cindy“. “Cindy” traveled to and fro across the classic Pixies universe beautiful, with the chorus operating a spacey acoustic surf while the hook burned down a dirty back road pointed straight at Come On Pilgrim. “Andro Queen” traveled a similarly spacial atmosphere, while the EP’s closer “What Goes Boom” ripped heads off with the heaviness and intensity of the Trompe Le Monde era.
Unperturbed by an array of cynical, twenty-years-in-the-making reviews of EP-1, EP-2 arrives this month giving us another four excellent tracks from one of rock and roll’s greatest bands. Seven months and nine tracks into the band’s turn, Pixies haven’t lost much ground in their time away. Black Francis and the gang are going into 2014 with an inferno of energy, and you’d be a fool not to come along.
EP-2 opens with “Blue Eyed Hexe”, a blistering, cowbell-heavy banger about a sexy witch. While Francis screams his head off, Joey Santiago rips through the most face-melting guitar solo we’ve seen thus far from Pixies’ comeback. Between the blood-curdling third verse and the ongoing guitar striptease, “Blue Eyed Hexe” will rattle you to your bones, and it’s bound to be incredible in the live setting. “Magdalena” is textbook Pixies atmosphere. Haunted by a heartless lover, Francis croons a melodic wonder as the band grooves out on a Bossanova style seduction. Francis and Santiago jam together through the bridge in a poignant, dueling passage that you can’t help smile through. Though we’ve gotten to see Pixies a handful of times on tours 2004 forward (including the stellar Doolittle anniversary tour from a couple years ago), we’ve all been waiting a long time to hear what canvas age and experience have provided for Pixies to paint on, and cuts like these make the wait 100% worth it.
The mood shifts on the second half of EP-2, traveling to the brighter alternative sound akin to the one Frank Black pursued in his solo career. “Greens and Blues” sounds like it could have been a hit off of Frank Black or Teenager of the Year. Over a warm yet somber acoustic groove, Black sing’s “I’m wasting your time just talking to you - maybe best you go on home.” Amidst it’s bright arrangement, the song carries an emotional burden, and the heaviness will stay in the back of your mind for hours. Wrapping up the EP is a dueling guitar jam that sees Francis and Santiago’s teamwork at its best. Behind their soaring odyssey, David Lovering pounds away at a driving, furious gallop. All together, along with an ominous narrative about snakes, it’s a pretty epic track, and a great cliffhanger to keep us on the edge of our seats until EP-3 drops later this year.
With time, Frank Black’s songwriting has ripened like wine. Tracks like “Indie Cindy” and “Blue Eyed Hexe” tell us he’s not getting soft by any means, but when you hear the likes of “Greens and Blues”, it’s evident that time has given his songwriting a clearer view of the horizon. Last week, Pixies kicked off their tour in Boston and played no less than eight of their nine new songs. New material occupied a quarter of their massive, career-spanning setlist, spread in between every expected classic from “Broken Face” to their infamous “In Heaven” cover. For the first time in almost ten years of touring, Pixies are going above and beyond the call of duty that their already stellar legacy lends itself to. With new material completely worthy of garnering a new wave of fans, Pixies look to the future optimistically, and with all necessary tools to continue melting our hearts with equal parts eloquence and oddity.
Pixies will perform live in Seattle at the Paramount Theatre on February 18. Tickets are already sold out, but you can listen to them live on KEXP on February 18 on the Morning Show at 9:30AM.