The reformed Pixies have a lot to prove, after 2014 comeback Indie Cindy disappointed fans and critics alike.
But on the basis of Tenement Song, the third single released from upcoming album Head Carrier, they are still a band struggling to regain their identity without bassist Kim Deal.
There’s nothing overtly bad or unpleasant about the track, which chugs along with jangly guitars and a catchy, melodic chorus; Black Francis’ unique vocal style still works well. But, like all the new Pixies stuff, it lacks any substance or grit. With the dissonant guitar howls on Surfer Rosa and the punchy drums on Doolittle the Pixies were a band that were all about sound and this is something that they seem to have completely forgotten. The production is clean, bland and sterile, a dull solo from Joey Santiago feels meticulous and planned where once it might have been jagged and chaotic.
Meanwhile, new bassist Paz Lenchantin peppers the track with backing vocals that are an obvious imitation of Kim Deal. Kim’s vocals on songs like Hey and Debaser are one of the best things about the Pixies, and it’s lazy and somehow cruel for the band to simply try and recreate it without her. Of course, you shouldn’t just compare a band’s new output to their classic albums but they have openly invited such comparisons with their approach here. It’s sad that a band who were once so revolutionary and adventurous are now so tame.