For over 10 years, a collective realisation had slowly dawned over the cult of hardcore Pixies fans. This was a realisation that the library of Pixies music was a closed book. They had made their world-changing music, and even their reunion was one rooted deeply in the nostalgia of 40-somethings and hipster teens. Head Carrier, the Pixies’ second album since the end of their hiatus, demonstrates for the most part a natural progression of the Pixies’ legacy, making 2014’s questionable Indie Cindy look like an anomaly to be forgotten in rock history.
The most impressive thing about Head Carrier is lead singer Black Francis playing to the strength of the husky, middle aged voice that he has developed. A key feature of The Pixies’ earlier music was Francis’ almost child-like, nasally drawl. However, just as Johnny Cash played to the strength of his frail pensioner vocal chords, the vocals on this album sound harsher, pushier and almost portay a stereotypical middle-aged grumpiness that lends itself well to the Pixies’ trademark tangent to the grunge sound. The third track, ‘Baal’s Back’ demonstrates this evolution most poignantly, with a unexpected husky, scream-driven classic metal sound reminiscent of 80s AC/DC.
‘Tenement Song’, one of the album’s more memorable tracks, sears the ears of the listener with that trademark saturated, surf-on-steroids lead guitar sound, as well as featuring their stylistic dynamic contrasts. However the most hard-hitting track on the album is undoubtedly the garage-rock ‘Um Chagga Lagga’. This soundtrack to a psychotic episode blends perfectly frantic, chunky guitar riffs with Black Francis’ chaotic, wailing vocals, making the track sound like a race to the finish line.
Despite this, some of the album feels weak and forgettable. Uninspired lyrics and droning, strum-along guitar dominate tracks like ‘Bel Espirit’ and ‘Classic Masher’.
It is an album of highs and lows, but demonstrates an undeniably natural progression of the band. Die-hard fans will have an array of genuinely diverse tracks to top up their constantly looping playlist of Pixies classics.
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Photo: Line of Best Fit