Words by Russell Carstens
Head Carrier is the new Pixies album, and their first with Paz Lenchantin assuming all bass duties. Long-time fans know that the beloved Kim Deal is irreplaceable, but by simply being herself, Lenchantin has solidified her place in the band. In this case, a fair listen goes a long way for the skeptic. Defying what one’s expectations of a band far beyond their glory days would be, Head Carrier hooks you early on. The album opens with instant, lighthearted fun on the title track. Lenchantin’s backup vocals are extremely friendly to the ear, while the no-frills production and assertively-mixed guitars really shine the light on each member’s strengths—everyone’s role is instantly obvious and recognizable.
“Classic Masher” is like a punk rock western tune for bullfighting, with a dark surrealism in the lyrics akin to lines like “slicing up eyeballs” on “Debaser.” Supported by Joey Santiago’s bent-string tension, “Baal’s Back” features dissonant verses that are made good on by an ear-catching chorus hook. The intro of “Might As Well Be Gone” will bring a smile to your face, as the standout track moves into classic Pixies melodies.
Like surf music turned shady, “Oona” is a headbang-worthy blast, where Black Francis’ vicious, terrifying scream is just as savage as it was nearly thirty years ago on “Something Against You.” “Talent” harkens back to the band’s sci-fi-surf sound on Bossanova, with somberly-delivered chorus vocals. “Tenement Song” chugs like the Ramones, and features one of Santiago’s best moments (post-chorus) before the song finishes up, never overstaying its welcome. The Pixies have always known that it’s better to make an early exit than to drag on, and their editing skills are as tight as ever.
“Bel Esprit” utilizes the soft/loud dynamics the band has long-been known for. “All I Think About Now” features line-by-line vocal trade-offs by Francis and Lenchantin, while Santiago’s hypnotic leads bring to mind his standout lick on the group’s most famous song, “Where Is My Mind?”. “Plaster Of Paris” is simply strange and loveable, in that endearing Pixies way. The only sour note is “All The Saints” which closes the album on a very slow note—too slow for a collection that is so energetic and full of life.
It wouldn’t be blasphemy to say that Head Carrier is worthy of being considered an excellent, classic Pixies record. Listen with an open mind and you’ll find that it holds its own next to their more time-honored releases.
© September 30th, 2016
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