Pixies – “Indie Cindy”

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.juno.co.uk)

Grade: D

Key Tracks: “Bagboy” “Magdalena 318”

Surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear recently played at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction with some rotating singers – Joan Jett, St. Vincent, Kim Gordon and, unpredictably, Lorde (and J. Mascis in an afterparty). It was only the third time they had performed together after Kurt Cobain’s death, the first two times being with Sir Paul McCartney. In that time, they only recorded one new song (with Sir Paul). The men have been very careful not to alter the band’s legacy in any way, and the only performances have honored both their own music and Cobain’s life.

Pixies, sadly, have gone the way of almost every other early 90′s band – Alice in Chains, Sublime, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, Hole, Blind Melon – in reforming with a different lineup in a move that seems just shamelessly capitalistic. (Exceptions, of course – Soundgarden kept the same lineup, Pearl Jam and Radiohead are still going strong). Their first album in 23 years, “Indie Cindy” captures almost none of their perverse magic of the past. While it isn’t a horrendous album, it’s wildly, wildly inconsistent and is usually content being just a footnote to the band’s career rather than trying to expand on it.

There’s a lot to pick apart on the album. The most obvious, and most painful thing to note is that none of these 12 songs are necessarily new. Pixies released three EP’s, four songs each, from the end of last year to just last month. “Indie Cindy” is simply those 12 songs put together and reordered. At the tail end of an era where bands are reforming in the name of capitalism, this seems like the biggest moneygrab of them all.

For the most part, the music itself isn’t bad. It just isn’t Pixies. Pixies made a name for themselves (and influenced a whole decade of music that followed them) by creating wholly unpredictable music that was both melodic and noisy, with lyrics often about violence and mutilation. Yet there was a radio-friendly quality to the music that bridged the gap between radio alternative and underground bands. Here, most of the songs are closer to straight radio rock, ranging anywhere from decent to totally forgettable.

The album’s best songs are the ones were there are many things going on. “Bagboy” is a prime example – it’s partially spoken word, with heavy guitar rhythms and a few different percussion things going on. And “Magdalena 318,” which has a more industrial and grungier feel to it, easily the album’s best song. Too many of the songs are too straightforward, lacking energy and any real creativity. “Greens and Blues,” “Silver Snails” and “Snakes,” as just three examples, are three melodic and rounded alternative songs, but ones that are instantly forgettable. The good tracks on this album are diamonds in the rough, and there’s a lot of sifting to go through.

Besides the music, Black Francis’ vocals are inconsistent, too. There’s none of the screaming and unpredictability, but he hits some classic Pixies vocals – at points. On “Magdalena 318″ and “Blue Eyed Hexe,” his voice sounds just like it used to. Yet elsewhere his vocals are pretty average, contributing to the very average quality of the music. And on “Andro Queen,” his vocals are downright bad, with the song sounding like some cut track from a trippy 60′s band.

From the time that the Pixies first reunited to the time they actually put out “Indie Cindy,” two things happened – they lost Kim Deal, the equally creative force behind their earlier music (and have yet to find a permanent replacement), and they surpassed the amount of time in which they were a band in their first run. That should be indicative of the album – the time it took to put out one album in 2014 is longer than the time it took them to put out four studio albums and an EP in the early 90′s. “Indie Cindy” is passable as an alternative album, but it never has any idea what it wants to be. Occasionally, the band tries to grasp at their amazing legacy. But usually, they’re comfortable with sorely unremarkable alternative/”butt-rock” songs, and there’s simply no reason for this album to exist. It takes their legacy down a notch; adds an asterisk onto the ends of some legendary albums. “Indie Cindy,” to put it honestly, will please the local alternative radio DJ’s, but not the station’s listeners.

If you like this, try: I don’t exactly know what to recommend here, but if you’re into this album then you’re probably really into 90’s music rebirthed so I’d recommend Soundgarden’s surprisingly passable 2012 album “King Animal” or Smashing Pumpkins’ great 2007 album “Zeitgeist.”

-By Andrew McNally

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Drumgasm – “Drumgasm”

(Photo Credit: exclaim.ca)

Grade: A-

There’s very little to say about this album, other than your ears are about to get audited. “Drumgasm” is the debut album from the instrumental percussion supergroup consisting of Janet Weiss (formerly from Sleater-Kinney, now drummer for Wild Flag), Matt Cameron (of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) and Zach Hill (of Hella, Marnie Stern and, importantly, Death Grips). All three drummers are known for a brash, edgier, sound – Hill especially – so there was already going to be an intense factor to this album. What makes it all the more intense and ear-busting, though, is it’s total improvisation. The three drummers are heard at the beginning of the album chatting, trying to figure out a plan before they decide to just start playing and see what happens. Their voices aren’t heard again until after they finish, as they congratulate each other.

The album consists of just two tracks, both called “Drumgasm.” Both songs hover almost exactly around twenty minutes, and focus more on skill and intensity, rarely finding a groove or constant beat. There are extended moments where one drummer is featured more prominently than the other two, and although it’s impossible to determine who it is, it’s not unwise to assume it’s Hill, based purely on speed and intensity.

This album excels best as a concept – a truly improvised duo of brash drum pieces without names. If percussion interests you at all (as it does to me), then this album is like a undeserved present. There are call-and-response moments, there are moments where the three work together to berate the volume of your speakers, and there are moments where they fall out of line with each other and it sounds messy. It’s got mistakes and miscues. Of course it does, it’s improvised, and although those missteps aren’t appealing, they further build the concept. The album’s only real fault, a “fault” that shouldn’t be blamed on the musicians, and the same one that could be attributed to most jazz, is that listening is a commitment. There are no breaks, and although the listener gets sucked in, it is immediately lost when either track is paused (I streamed the album via Pitchfork Advance, and my internet connection was lost 15 minutes into the first track). This is a really original album, and it’s execution is nearly perfect. It is loud and abrasive, musically interesting, yet it is ultimately three people having fun and messing around in the studio, and I recommend it as both a fun, and a sonically complex and challenging listen. Somehow.

-By Andrew McNally