An Old Improvised Explosive Device



In the late 1980s when the American band Pixies was formed, I, like many of my music-loving friends, was still listening to my old favourites – bands that we liked from the 1960s and 1970s. In hindsight it seems silly but back then we actually didn’t experiment much with new music.
Blame some of that on the lack of access – those were pre-Internet days; besides, record shops in India (then one of the few sources for new stuff) played it safe by stocking only bands and labels that they knew would sell in big numbers. I never heard a Pixies album till much later, sometime, I think, in the late 1990s. It was Surfer Rosa, their first full-length album from 1988, and it has all the ingredients needed to blow you away: dark and difficult-to-comprehend lyrics, a curiously delicious blend of melodic hooks and garage-y punk, a punchy bass line and, lastly but most importantly, a searing lead guitar.
THE PIXIES: (L-R) Kim Shattuck, David Lovering, Black Francis and Joey Santiago. Shattuck had replaced Kim Deal as the bassist for a while last year. (Photo: New York Times)

THE PIXIES: (L-R) Kim Shattuck, David Lovering, Black Francis and Joey Santiago. Shattuck had replaced Kim Deal as the bassist for a while last year. (Photo: New York Times)

Surfer Rosa to me was like an improvised explosive device (IED), a bit crudely put together, but quite certain to explode any moment. It was just the sort of record that is guaranteed to make a band great. As it turned out, the Pixies became a great band, influencing more American indie and alternative bands than any other band had. The Pixies were originally from Boston and comprised Black Francis (original name: Charles Thompson) on vocals, Joey Santiago on guitar, David Lovering on drums and Kim Deal on bass. But the band was initially short-lived. After they released a second album, Bossanova, and a third, Trompe Le Monde, they broke up. Which was a pity because the band missed out on the alt-indie wave that the 1990s witnessed and although band members, notably Black Francis, played solo gigs and recorded albums, and rumours among a loyal cult following swirled about a possible comeback, that didn’t happen – until 2003, when, 11 years after the breakup, the Pixies got back together and played gigs. But no new album was released. I’d re-discovered the Pixies old discography and had met a couple of much younger new friends who too liked the Pixies, and occasionally their albums would spin on my playlist, but mostly it would be Surfer Rosa.

Till last year, when the band released a single and two new EPs. This was accompanied by an announcement that bassist Deal, an integral ingredient of the Pixies IED, had left the band. This was followed by the release of a brand new full-length from the Pixies, which has the songs on the EPs as well as new ones. The new album is called Indy Cindy (an un Pixies-like name for an album but then Pixies is quite an unlikely band name for the kind of music they make) and, somewhat to my surprise, it is one that has received mixed reviews with the mixture skewed towards the bad. Many reviewers have been of the opinion that the 12 songs on Indy Cindy are not edgy or jagged enough and some of them have tended to compare the Pixies sound of today with what they sounded like in the late 1980s.
That’s quite unfair. Or maybe I’m not as die-hard as old Pixies fans. After all, I discovered the band around the time they were first breaking up. The Pixies today – Francis, Santiago and Lovering – are middle-aged musicians and, besides, this isn’t the late 1980s any more. Their music still has the edgy pop-meets-punk thing. Black Francis sings like he did before, and Santiago’s guitar is still incendiary, and yes, they sound more polished and their music is more finished. But, hello, this is 2014 and these chaps are old guys now.
Indy Cindy works best if you’re new to the Pixies. If you never knew the kind of influence this band has had. Songs to sample on their new album before you decide to spring for it: Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy (the latter features the harmonising vocals of ex-member Deal). If, on the other hand, you’re an old Pixies fan, then Indy Cindy may sound like a band that has been heavily influenced by, ahem, the Pixies.

In the late 1980s when the American band Pixies was formed, I, like many of my music-loving friends, was still listening to my old favourites – bands that we liked from the 1960s and 1970s. In hindsight it seems silly but back then we actually didn’t experiment much with new music. Blame some of that on the lack of access – those were pre-Internet days; besides, record shops in India (then one of the few sources for new stuff) played it safe by stocking only bands and labels that they knew would sell in big numbers. I never heard a Pixies album till much later, sometime, I think, in the late 1990s. It was Surfer Rosa, their first full-length album from 1988, and it has all the ingredients needed to blow you away: dark and difficult-to-comprehend lyrics, a curiously delicious blend of melodic hooks and garage-y punk, a punchy bass line and, lastly but most importantly, a searing lead guitar.

TIME BOMB: Surfer Rosa (above left) to me was like an improvised explosive device. Songs to sample on Indy Cindy (above right): Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy

TIME BOMB: Surfer Rosa (above left) to me was like an improvised explosive device. Songs to sample on Indy Cindy (above right): Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy

Surfer Rosa to me was like an improvised explosive device (IED), a bit crudely put together, but quite certain to explode any moment. It was just the sort of record that is guaranteed to make a band great. As it turned out, the Pixies became a great band, influencing more American indie and alternative bands than any other band had. The Pixies were originally from Boston and comprised Black Francis (original name: Charles Thompson) on vocals, Joey Santiago on guitar, David Lovering on drums and Kim Deal on bass. But the band was initially short-lived. After they released a second album, Bossanova, and a third, Trompe Le Monde, they broke up. Which was a pity because the band missed out on the alt-indie wave that the 1990s witnessed and although band members, notably Black Francis, played solo gigs and recorded albums, and rumours among a loyal cult following swirled about a possible comeback, that didn’t happen – until 2003, when, 11 years after the breakup, the Pixies got back together and played gigs. But no new album was released. I’d re-discovered the Pixies old discography and had met a couple of much younger new friends who too liked the Pixies, and occasionally their albums would spin on my playlist, but mostly it would be Surfer Rosa.

Till last year, when the band released a single and two new EPs. This was accompanied by an announcement that bassist Deal, an integral ingredient of the Pixies IED, had left the band. This was followed by the release of a brand new full-length from the Pixies, which has the songs on the EPs as well as new ones. The new album is called Indy Cindy (an un Pixies-like name for an album but then Pixies is quite an unlikely band name for the kind of music they make) and, somewhat to my surprise, it is one that has received mixed reviews with the mixture skewed towards the bad. Many reviewers have been of the opinion that the 12 songs on Indy Cindy are not edgy or jagged enough and some of them have tended to compare the Pixies sound of today with what they sounded like in the late 1980s.That’s quite unfair. Or maybe I’m not as die-hard as old Pixies fans. After all, I discovered the band around the time they were first breaking up. The Pixies today – Francis, Santiago and Lovering – are middle-aged musicians and, besides, this isn’t the late 1980s any more. Their music still has the edgy pop-meets-punk thing. Black Francis sings like he did before, and Santiago’s guitar is still incendiary, and yes, they sound more polished and their music is more finished. But, hello, this is 2014 and these chaps are old guys now.

Indy Cindy works best if you’re new to the Pixies. If you never knew the kind of influence this band has had. Songs to sample on their new album before you decide to spring for it: Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy (the latter features the harmonising vocals of ex-member Deal). If, on the other hand, you’re an old Pixies fan, then Indy Cindy may sound like a band that has been heavily influenced by, ahem, the Pixies.

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