‘Bag Boy’ proved there was life in them yet; EP1 barely scratched their legacy, but EP2? Well, EP2 makes one start to think Pixies should quit while they’re ahead, again.
One only has to listen to ‘Greens and Blues’ to hear how bad things have gotten. It honestly sounds like it could have been written by Dave Matthews Band, Goo Goo Dolls or some other grimly competent American rock band from the 90s. And it probably best encapsulates all that is wrong with Pixies in their current incarnation. They lack bite. Where once they were a rabid, unhinged dog, they are now a beloved family pet that loves nothing more than to spend its winter days curled around the fire.
Live, it’s like Frank Black can unhinge his jaw to unleash that ungodly yelp of his; here, he has perfected a perfectly generic drawl. Joey Santiago, meanwhile, has all but lost his distinctive guitar tone – that distressed feral creature that jumps from his amp. In its place, some wiry distortion and a selection of nondescript riffs.
Things start off promisingly enough, however, with ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’, which for all its by-numbers Pixieisms – fantastical narrative, infected surf-pop core – at least shows a bit of muscle. The same goes for the otherwise laughable ‘Snakes’. Black could have possibly gotten away with a line like “Snakes are coming to your town / In tunnels underground / Some travelling overground” in 1993; but in 2014, you wonder how news of his recent lobotomy slipped by all your social media channels.
Such pervasive insipidness goes beyond a standard middle-aged decline, if only because it reveals all Frank Black’s talk of reinvigorated sessions and and 20-year intergalactic excursions to be the bullshit it would be coming from anyone else’s mouth instead of a reassurance that the band’s wonderful strangeness remains intact after all these years.
Even the EP’s saving grace, ‘Magdalena’, suffers for it blueprint similarities to Bossanova‘s Havalina. The ostensible girl’s name for a title, Black’s eerily sweet high-pitched voice and the chorus’ dreamy tone add up to something too familiar to wholeheartedly enjoy but still quite appealing. With that said, the song doesn’t set out to be as charming as the original – Santiago’s guitar churns menacingly but also regales with lulling beams of noise that crawl towards the ear.
If nothing else, ‘Magdalena’ provides hope that EP3 will become more than a dreaded inevitability. The rest of EP2 is best ignored.