The Pixies are a band that honestly need no introduction. Their experimental vocal stylings, loud-soft dynamic shifts, and fractured pop melodies completely revolutionized alternative rock, influencing countless others in the process. Albums like Doolittle and Surfer Rosa have rightfully gone down in the rock-and-roll canon as some of the finest “college-rock” ever put to tape.
However, after a lengthy breakup, the Pixies’ return to the studio in 2014 resulted in the disjointed, critically panned Indie Cindy, a major disappointment for longtime fans. Head Carrier, their latest come-back attempt, fares somewhat better than Cindy, offering few surprises but still delivering a decent, slightly low-energy pastiche of the group’s classic material.
Black Francis’ trademark vocal tics and yelps have been toned down a bit in favor of a more conventional singing style, but elsewhere the band essentially sticks to its sonic guns. Noisy guitars, simple rhythms, and deadpan female backing vocals (albeit from new member Paz Lenchantin in lieu of Kim Deal) are still the name of the game, and these trademark sounds still satisfy. “Classic Masher” brings to mind past pop successes like “Here Comes Your Man,” combining a wonderfully catchy melody with some nice vocals from both Francis and Lenchantin. The fabulous “Tenement Song” may be the best track here, providing some more upbeat pop thrills and a hair-raising chorus, while the brooding “Might as Well Be Gone” stands out with some glorious guitar licks and booming percussion. The Pixies may not reinvent the wheel on Head Carrier, but all in all it’s a perfectly enjoyable listen for fans of the group.