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CD of The Week

Week of 10/03/16

    Pixies - Head Carrier (PIAS)

    Pixies have been backed into a corner before. Having ascended to mythical status during their two decade hiatus between Trompe le Monde (1991) and Indie Cindy (2014), expectations were high for their return to wax. Unfortunately, that album was generally (and unfairly) considered a disappointment. Two years later, Head Carrier has a lot to prove. Pixies are a different band now; evolved and more mature. Unfortunately, we still find the need to hold them up to the chaos, urgency and beauty of their early material.

    Head Carrier is a solid album, but it does not feel like the Pixies. There is nothing daring or challenging here, rather, the record is simply light and straightforward. It features sleepy tunes like 'Might As Well Be Gone' and 'All the Saints' and radio-ready songs like 'Classic Masher' and 'Tenement Song.' Instead of Frank Black/Black Francis' playful and excitable vocals, his performance is calculated and weathered. He sometimes sounds like a cross between Neil Young and Eddie Vedder, particularly on the grungy opening title track. In 'Baal's Back,' Black makes an attempt to capture his signature anxious shouting, but it just sounds like a Sam Kinison impression without depth. However, the biggest change is the ascension of Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) to permanent replacement of the iconic Kim Deal. Lenchantin's style is not completely different from Deal's, but her musical interplay and vocal harmonizing set a different tone.

    All is not lost for long time fans. 'All I Think About Now' features more than a passing resemblance to the classic 'Where is My Mind.' Lenchantin wrote the music and sings Black's poetic tribute to Deal, recalling the happy times they shared in the past. 'Um Chagga Lagga' is perhaps the most Pixies-ish song: a driving, full throttle song that pits Black against Lenchantin in a call & response format over what sounds like a CB radio. In it, Black sings 'Don't get mixed up in shit / you could get used to it' which echoes the Pixies' current game plan. He recently told Pitchfork that he wants the listener 'to be able to remove themselves from the narratives that they might have in their head about the band.' So use that as your listening direction, straight from Black's own request: let go of what the Pixies should sound like, and just enjoy the music.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio this week to receive a copy of Head Carrier. Click here for details.
    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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