Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pixies - "EP-2"

Anyone complaining about the Pixies ruining their legacy with new releases is being too precious. As a test, I listened to Doolittle this morning to see if it had been tarnished and – hey, guess what? – it still sounded as good as ever. It's a separate era, and Pixies in 2014 are a different beast, especially now that Kim Deal is out of the band. I don’t think anyone honestly expected them to be writing material on a par with their classics, but still, people coming to EP-2 with any expectations will likely be disappointed.

Last year’s EP-1 was far from excellent, especially for a band of the Pixies’ stature, but it had a couple of interesting detours – veering into glistening dream-pop on 'Andro Queen' and shaking up the structure of 'Indie Cindy'. The classic Pixies quiet/loud dynamic seemed to have been replaced by a textural one – sparse/lush – and the relatively glossy production suited the more gentle songs. The best bits were the ones that didn’t really sound like the Pixies at all, but could easily stand on their own.

In comparison to EP-1, some of the more familiar elements of the Pixies sound are back in evidence on EP-2 – Frank Black’s howl, Joey Santiago’s guitar texture – but this does nothing to disguise how rubbish the songs themselves are. In all honesty, it just reminds us how poorly this new material compares to the older stuff. 'Magdalena' is probably the best thing here, sounding as it does like a Bossanova offcut with its floaty chorus, but it’s distinctly unmemorable.

Of the four tracks, 'Blue Eyed Hexe' has been given the video treatment and seems to be clocking up the most radio plays, but it plods along at an interminable speed, and is ruined by stadium-ready drums and the same annoying guitar chug as the verses in 'Magdalena'. Any sense of threat built up in the verses is immediately dispelled by the awful chorus. 'Snakes' is even worse, with the lyrics being the main offender here.

'Greens and Blues' is apparently the band’s attempt to write a new set-closer to replace 'Gigantic'. Not that you’d be able to tell from listening. It's not too bad, but the chorus never takes off the way it should do, and the old dynamic shifts that used to seem so natural are sorely missed here. Some of the riffs and little guitar measures hark back to classic Pixies, though that temporary spark of recognition never ignites into anything remotely convincing, pastiche or otherwise.

Maybe if EP-2 had been offered as a free download, then I could have approached it without any expectations. As a paid-for release, it’s incredibly disappointing, and I doubt many Pixies fans will be eagerly awaiting the third and final instalment in the EP series. 

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