By Jonah Krueger, Contributor
Key tracks: “St. Nazaire”, “Daniel Boone”
Google your favorite band and the term “Pixies.” Chances are, you’ll find the artist of your fancy singing praise to the eyeball-slicing indie legends. Their story and discography are permanently canonized in the stones of alt-rock history, and just about everyone under the sun has taken influence from their trademark sound. Yet, even with an intense and cultish fanbase, it’s no secret that Pixies’ attempt at a comeback with their new LP, Beneath the Eyrie, is less than satisfying. Regardless, the group—minus original bassist Kim Deal—are back to take another stab at reclaiming their glory.
Read more: Album Review: Pixies – Head Carrier
If one thing is clear on their new album, it’s that the band is acutely aware of their stagnated sound. To be fair, in a world of groups who at best expand on their dynamic formula and at worst rip them off, keeping the magic of what makes Pixies stand out is much harder. Still, in today’s landscape, their recent material fails to demand much attention.
The band tries to combat this by embracing a multitude of new influences. Many of the tracks are slow, reserved, and more outright gothic than what Pixies typically offer. The tracklist runs the gamut from danceable post-punk, see “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain”, to classic country style ballads, see “Birds of Prey”. All of this is not to say that these songs don’t sound like Pixies’ songs; their classic “loud-quiet” formula is evident on most cuts, but it does serve as evidence that the group is trying to come up with something new.
What caps Eyrie more than anything is that the results of these attempts, more often than not, come off as tired. The songs aren’t particularly poorly written and the performances aren’t particularly unimpressive. Somehow, though, many tracks seem to call to mind other artists. Whether it conjures images of artists who preceded the band or artists who were directly inspired by their work, Pixies tend to pale in comparison. Basically, it makes you want to go listen to another band.
This first becomes evident on the track “On Graveyard Hill”, whose looping bass line, rigid guitars, and vocal performance echoes the style of Joy Division. On “Daniel Boone”, it legitimately sounds like they sampled Radiohead’s classic “Karma Police” outro. Perhaps the most overt example comes on “Long Rider”, which if you can imagine Rivers Cuomo replacing Charles Thompson IV’s vocals, reeks of Weezer. Again, these are all bands that Pixies either have previously taken influence from or who have taken influence from them, yet their take is entirely paper-thin, lacking enough dynamic energy or raw creativity to fully flesh out the ideas.
In tandem with the album’s release, the band released a 12 part podcast chronicling the recording process of Eyrie. It is a wholesome, yet overly pristine, VH-1-tinged experience, and it just so happens to be emblematic of the album as a whole. It is an admirable, well crafted, inoffensive product. Yet, it’s too produced, too clean, and too predictable to make it essential listening for anyone not already invested in this leg of the band’s career.