Monday, December 2, 2013

Pixies' EP1 Sounds Better After All

On the heels of disheartening news that Kim Deal was leaving, the Pixies put out Bagboy with Jeremy Dubs (The Bennies) on vocals in June and then added guitarist and vocalist Kim Shattuck (The Muffs, The Pandoras) for their European tour in July. Two months later, they dropped the four-track EP1 on reviewers who weren't ready.

Some might argue nobody was ready. EP1 was supposed to be the first in a series of mini-releases, but it also bookmarked the reality that Deal was gone and the Pixies were embarking on a bold new sound that was anything except what people thought they would sound like.

Sure, some could make the case that EP1 didn't immediately feel like the Pixies. But then again, with Charles Thompson a.k.a. Black Francis at the helm with partners David Lovering and Joey Santiago, anything is possible. If there is one thing Black Francis has been good at since the beginning, it's making music that is remarkable — as in something worth having a remark about.

EP1 sounds better after the initial push back.

Maybe it's all by design. Listening to Indie Cindy after several weeks of Pixies silence creates a different impression. The irony is just like the video that tells a love story backwards. As if he was talking to fans, Black Francis addresses the gap between the Pixies and people who listen to them.

“It says to the audience, I don’t know if this romance has still got what it needs to happen again,” the ftontman told the Times about the song. “I don’t know if you’ll accept me; I don’t know if I accept you. But we have this memory. Can we do it again?”

In the video, everything seems to go bust in the beginning. But then it soon becomes clear that the beginning is really the end. And, more importantly, it wasn't a waste of time because it was a part of something bigger. This is part of something bigger. EP1 is also part of something bigger.

And knowing this might even put Andro Queen into a different context. With a lighter touch than many Pixies songs, it is an intimate opener and invitation to experience something original as opposed to the proto-grunge that gave them some of their biggest hits.

Of course, some might say that Andro Queen is also something else. It's a goodbye song that serves as a bridge to something more diverse on the horizon. Yes, it's different from the Pixies. But as soon as one surrenders their attachment to the past, it becomes easier to appreciate that this would have been a brilliant tune by anyone else.

Similarly, Another Toe In The Ocean hints a at a tepid first step into the unknown. The song, much like where the band is, slowly floats along into the unknown. It doesn't even matter what comes next. It only matters that a decision has been made to swim out from the safety of a shoreline.

"I have a drink, I start to sink. I put my toes in the ocean. I have a drink, I start to sink. Another toe in the ocean."

Still, there is an ominous note about it all. The Edward Thatch reference promises that the no one expects the journey to be a picnic. Thatch a.k.a. Edward Teach or better known as Blackbeard, was a pretty potent figure in history. There was a time he too put a toe in the ocean as a young privateer.

The EP ends with What Goes Boom, which chugs and slugs along with a little bit of naval gazing. Most people can't make heads or tails of the song beyond recognizing it as the heaviest addition to the Pixies library. It's not the easiest to love as it is stuck somewhere between grungy pop and metal with huge hooks and sweeping transitions, unless you can appreciate the anger behind it.

EP1 By The Pixies Pushes Around At 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

All in all, this EP will go further than anyone expects as the Pixies continue to tour. And looking back now on the brisk and immediate reviews, most people will eventually conclude that the only problem with the EP was how reviewers approached it. If you compare it against other Pixies releases, it comes up short. But when you add it to their legacy, this EP is a critical component to their evolution.

Sure, this is more subtle than most. But as you wrap your head around the lyrics, it's clear enough that this was only a warmup. EP1 says goodbye and hello. For better or worse. We'll side with Blackbeard.

EP1 by the Pixies is available from Amazon. You can also download it from iTunes. For more news about the Pixies head over to Facebook. If you missed Bagboy, look for it on their website (while it lasts). It wasn't my favorite among their first new material, but it does belong with EP1.
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