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Surfer Rosa

Pixies

1988

Much has been said of The Pixies full length debut album.  "Influential" would probably be the choice word here.  It certainly influenced a lot of alternative music that would become huge in the following decade, and for that, alternative music fans like myself owe Surfer Rosa a huge debt of gratitude.  This was a key album in that marked the turn away from punk-rock to alternative-rock, so it's importance is profound.  The music on here is at times abrasive, quirky, chaotic, but also occasionally graceful and beautiful.  Surfer Rosa has a rawer and more spastic sound to it than Doolittle, but overall, it's not as good as that album, but it is essential listening for fans of alt/indie-rock...good stuff.

8.7

Doolittle

The Pixies

1989

Ever feel like you're living a lie?  That's what I felt like when I discovered The Pixies literally 22 years after the release of this album.  Mind you, I knew of The Pixies, but I never actually listened to them until 2011.  When I found out just how good they were, I felt sick inside, thinking about all the years I wasted when their music could have been the soundtrack to my life.  I have always been a champion of alternative-rock music, particularly 90s alternative-rock, and after I heard this album (and Surfer Rosa) I realized that the vast majority of the music I grew up liking was heavily influenced by The Pixies.  They were a great band, and Doolittle is generally considered to be their best album.  I feel like if you looked up "alternative-rock" in the dictionary, Doolittle should just start playing (you know, if you used a magic dictionary that plays music).  There's an eclectic mix of styles to be found on Doolittle, but for all it's eccentric tendencies, the album still manages to sound smooth and well crafted.  While it is spastic at times, the predominate sound/vibe of Doolittle is that of fuzz-soaked grace.  The band creates a full-bodied sound here, with Kim Deal's throbbing and bouncing basslines along with David Lovering slapping and powerful drumming, as well as a healthy amount of fuzzy distorted guitar courtesy of Black Francis.  And the vocal interplay between Francis and Deal adds a nice dynamic to the Pixies sound, and the band were really at their best when the two played off each other vocally.  Overall, Doolittle is a little slice of alternative-rock heaven, highly-listenable and often times quite catchy, yet still quirky, engaging, and experimental all at the same time.  A great album, and definitely a landmark for alternative-rock music.

9.1

Bossanova

Pixies

1990

Overall, this album fails to live up to its two groundbreaking predeccesors, but it's certainly not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination.  Bossanova starts on a strong note with the 3 opening tracks, but from there things become a bit too hit and miss the rest of the way for this to be considered a truly great album overall.  No doubt some real gems to found here though.

8.2

Trompe le Monde

Pixies-TrompeLeMondeCover.jpg

Pixies

1991

Haven heard that Kim Deal was nowhere to be found on this album, it took me a while to bother listening to it, especially considering that Bossonova was a somewhat underwhelming listening experience (at least compared to what came before it).  So needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to find that Trompe le Monde is actually a better album than Bossonova, and it isn't too far behind their classics Surfer Rosa and Doolittle either.  Although this is essentially the Black Francis show, it's a pretty damn good show at that.  This album has a bit more energy and bite to it compared to Bossonova, sounding less polished and watered-down, but the bite found here is well crafted.  It's not as deliriously sloppy/raw as Surfer Rosa, as Trompe le Monde exudes a punchier, slightly more refined sound.  It's a pretty fun album to listen to, not as experimental as Surfer Rosa, or well-rounded as Doolittle, but it is engaging in it's own way nonetheless.  Similar to Bossonva, the album somewhat looses steam towards the back half, but it has better pacing and is overall a more interesting/engaging listening experience than the aforementioned album.

Essentially the last album from the Pixies heyday, Trompe le Monde finds the band ending on a high note and helps solidify their legacy as perhaps the best indie rock band of their generation.

8.7

Head Carrier

Head Carrier, Pixies.jpg

Pixies

2016

Like a lot of people, I was fairly disappointed with 2014's Indie Cindy, an album that (aside for a few decent songs) really couldn't hold a candle to any of the band's prior classic albums on any level really.

So suffice to say expectations were highly tempered for Head Carrier, but somewhat surprisingly, the Pixies have managed to cook up a pretty good album here.  In a nutshell, it sounds close to the best case scenario you might imagine for a Pixies album released 25 years after their last great album (Trompe Le Monde).  I say that, because, I think it's important to understand 25 years is a really long time, so to expect the Pixies to cook up another Doolittle (or really anything close to that) seems a little overzealous.  I think the practical Pixies fan would just want a good, graceful album with some of that trademark quirky Pixies energy/experimentation about it, and for the most part, Head Carrier really delivers the goods on that front.

It's as if they worked out all the kinks on Indie Cindy, and have settled in quite nicely on Head Carrier, an album that goes down smooth and offers many rewarding moments.  Basically, there are no bad songs on the album.  Sure, a few of them are a tad underwhelming, like the perfectly average opening title track, or the pleasantly pedestrian "Might As Well Be Gone" or "Bel Esprit", but these tracks aren't tedious, and fit in well with the broader flow of the album. The best moments on the album come when the band resurrects that classic, fuzz-soaked grace that has always characterized their best songs, like on the standout track (for me anyway) "Tenement Song", or the mildly affecting "Plaster of Paris", and the "Where is My Mind" rehash "All I Think About Is Now".  These songs shine through because of their modesty, which is characteristic of the album as a whole.  But the Pixies also do a nice job of injecting some spicier numbers on Head Carrier, which gives the album a nice spark and adds to the overall energy.  Songs like "Talent", and "Um Chagga Lagga" add some of that classic Pixies spunk, and although it does sound a bit strained at times (particularly on "Baal's Back") these are still pretty good songs that would no doubt be a lot of fun in a live setting.

Overall though, the main vibe of this album is that of modesty and grace.  The Pixies have aged like a fine wine on Head Carrier, and everything sounds really natural and smooth for the most part. That helps give Head Carrier a slightly endearing quality, like meeting an old friend you haven't seen in decades and finding that they're still essentially the same, just a little bit older and wiser.  Head Carrier is a pleasant listening experience, a legit comeback for the band, and sure to put a smile on most fans' faces.  Nice to see the band finding their groove again after all these years.  Cheers to that.

8.3

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