The long-awaited full-length return of The Pixies and two unsung bands are among April’s highlights.
By Jason Motz
Produced By Gil Norton
Vivascene rating 8 out of 10
So long as you accept the fact that this, the first album by The Pixies since 1991’s Trompe Le Monde, is not the same calibre as their classic, bulletproof discography, you will learn to love Indie Cindy. And unless you are a writer for Pitchfork with unreal expectations for one of your canonized alt-rock heroes, or a Grantland writer suffering from mid-life ennui, Indie Cindy will provide a bounty of block-rocking beats.
In short, this shit is heavy, yo.
Why quibble? Sure, Kim Deal is missing, and the inherent chemistry has been neutralized. But when you focus on what is here, not what is missing (‘Giganatic #2’, ‘Head On Redux’) you have one of the year’s most explosive rock vibes. Pound for pound, punch for punch, Indie Cindy is a Dragon if not a Dragonslayer.
This version of The Pixies (with Ding replacing Deal on bass and Jeremy Dubs adding backing vocals) reconvened with longtime producer Gil Norton in Wales in late 2012. Made up of the three Eps that the band has been releasing periodically over the past year, Indie Cindy brings those disparate pieces together in one bombastic, scurrilous feast of noise and histrionics.
The tones are darker than previous Pixies albums, and more nuanced. True, this is not the sonic adventure playground we became accustomed to with Bossanova and Doolittle, but the sheer weight and volume on display here is of such thundering immensity it’s useless to stand pat. No other album this year has demonstrated a willingness to deafen and flatten it’s listeners as Indie Cindy.
‘Andro Queen’ is pure Black Francis an otherworldly pop oddity that bares the most resemblance to The Pixie of yore. So to does the dada-esque rock growl of ‘Bag Boy’ with eerily Deal-like vocals. ‘Bagboy’ was one of 2013’s most joyfully wholloping singles. In the context of Indie Cindy, it is bulwark of power and finesse. ‘What Goes Boom’ is pure nitroglycerin. ‘Another Toe In the Ocean’ is breathtaking in the way that only a Black Francis or a Frank Black can compose. There is no sense here that the band has any intention of replicating their old form. This is a veteran group revealing in their present state: voluble, scathing and menacing, with Indie Cindy The Pixies are in fighting shape.
The band has streamlined the carnage and volatility of their last proper record for a sonic presence of ominous low sounds and searing highs. The Pixies may not move as ferociously as they used to, but that’s maybe because they don’t need to. Indie Cindy is not a case for relevancy or legacy; it is a suite of bombastic tunes that, while just short of their own classic standard, deserve wide release.
I am happier live in a world where The Pixies have some new wares to hock. If stone-cold nostalgia is your trip, I’m not here to stop you. But what does the reputation of The Pixies matter if fans won’t give Indie Cindy a fair shake? This is the sound of a veteran rock outfit who have spent ten years reconnecting and getting their chops in order. The sound present on Indie Cindy is that of a tightly-wound, disciplined unit. The Pixies of 2014 have the rightful swagger of an aged prize fighter with a few scores to settle.
Vivascene rating 6.5 out of 10
Electro-pop being the buzzy genre of late, it’s become a horrorshow of clichés to review anything that falls in the venn diagram of the genre. Chicago’s M&O are a small exception. the vocals of Jamila Woods (or “Milo”) stand above the mix, unfettered by too much trickery, left alone to breathe and coast with the flare of a late-night R&B station. The bass and production work of Owen Hill (“Otis) grounds Almost Us with a delicate, refined sense of pop craft. Unlike so much of today’s pop, the songs on Almost Us contain ample white space for the grooves and vocals to move about. Though some of the tracks have an unfinished feel about them, this does add a sense of charm to the album. ‘Jimi Savannah’ for one never seems to achieve lift-off. ‘It Was the Song’ is the giddy core of the album; a clever and astute pop number that almost fills the void left by LCD Soundsystem. ‘Hollow’ is a sombre, minimalist composition that exudes soul despite it’s chromatic casing. ‘Blue’ is the guaranteed ear worm on the album, all lusciousness and gorgeousness.
The album’s only real trouble spot is the closing recitation of trite expressions, ‘When Pigs Fly.’ A failed experiment, it does not tie the album up but like an up-ended plane flattens the nose into the ground. And it’s brief runtime, though a symptom of changing times, did rub me wrong. (Some of us do still have the attention span for a 40-plus minute album.) But before the unwise and unweildly conclusion, Almost Us is a delectable ride.
The melodies on Almost Us veer between childlike wonderment and late-90s adult contemporary. There is an abundance of harmonic joys on the album, but the mournful ‘Neighbor’ keeps things from spiralling out of control. This is pop for the mature, discerning pop listener. Though M&O lack a genre-defining signature sound is by no means a fatal flaw; what M&O have here is pieced together a tasty sampler of silky, electro-funk. The potential here has not been fully realized but M&O have the tools – the voice, the ear, the soul – to be a force to reckon with. This is a duo worth watching.
Denney and The Jets
Vivascene rating 7 out of 10
If you still get off on Nuggets-era rock, hate pretentious rock sermonizing and appreciate a sweet pun, then Denney and The Jets is the band for you.
Like a hold-over from the Austin scene circa 1978, Denney and The Jets offer one of the loosest, rowdiest and unruly of rock albums I have heard in years. With more stubble and skuzz than The Black Keys, Mexican Coke should incite more barroom brawls, bad meth trips and Moonshine recipes than a week-long Duck Dynasty marathon.
A cross between The Sonics and Marshall Tucker Band, Mexican Coke is a short, sweet spliff. There’s nothing artsy or ironic about rotgut bite of ‘Mama’s to The Blues’ or the Stonesy swoon of ‘Hooked’.
The hook-heavy powerhouse stomp of ‘Bye Bye Queenie’ surely flattens anything The Black Keys have mustered of late. There is a touch of Marc Bolan-via-Alejandro Escovedo here too. ‘Alabama Man’ is pure, undiluted honky tonk, and a potent blast at that. ‘Broke’ is bolstered by some E Street organ, a backbeat Buick Mackane would envy and the swaggering thrust of Exile-era Stones. ‘Darlin’’ is the requisite “you-love-me-but-I’m-a-loser-‘ballad, but it transcends cliche to be the album’s boozy, bleating heart of soul. This is the kind of song Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds cut his teeth on, the kind of number Joe Ely used to write by the bushel.
Mexican Coke is either a hilarious piss-take by some studious southern garage rock vets … or it’s a raw-throated real deal. Either way, it’s a Goddamn good time.