Pixies – Kim + Rampant B.S. = ‘Indie Cindy,’ an Oddly Listenable Failure
Release Date: April 29, 2014
The last album released under the name Pixies translated in French to “fool the world,” so it’s not like Indie Cindy, with its potentially condescending title, is the first time this band has shown contempt for its audience. Likewise, Pixies are notoriously internecine, so the fact that the winsome Kim Deal is nowhere to be found here isn’t too terribly surprising. And yet, considering the band’s boys club rep after firing yet another Kim (Shattuck, of the Muffs), the girl’s name in the title is almost willfully provocative, even for Black Francis. So is the mere existence of this album—cut a whole decade after they reunited, and minus the lead singer of “Bam Thwok,” the last song they released.
These are just a couple reasons that most have been pre-conditioned to hate this record. Some others include its slapdash release scheme, Trapper Keeper cover art, silly preemptive leaks, er, EPs, try-anything chord progressions, circumstantially racist/sexist “Bagboy” video and, of course, no Kim (wait, did we already mention that?). This is a pretty shitty moment for indie men, with Deal recently detailing Robert Pollard’s “no bleeders” rule, Thurston Moore’s exposed affair and ill-advised “gender fascism” shot at Jezebel, and Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts’ well-known physical altercation with his ex. Any boys’ club record, let alone this boys’ club record, isn’t really welcome. So it’s understandable that Indie Cindy will go down as a bad failure, when it’s in fact a pretty good one.
In retrospect, those three numbered EPs feel like one of those viral puzzle pieces where a band reveals a quarter of its new album cover each day. The sequencing here improves the title tune for sure, a more-batshit-than-its-title mini-opera that references Theseus, but not the prole-bullying “Bagboy” (“So disappointed I was that I had made small talk with you”), with its truly tasteless, uncredited imitation of Deal on the chorus. But the dreamy “Jaime Bravo” and “Ring the Bell” help solve the mystery, 20 years on, of how Pixies found themselves opening for U2, and “Another Toe in the Ocean” is a sweet, crunchy addendum to Francis’ coastal playbook of “Where Is My Mind?” and “Wave of Mutilation.” The production’s slick for sure, though you have to have been done with them before Bossanova to be shocked by that, and the very Bossanova-worthy “Magdalena 318″ makes a good litmus test for whether or not you can get enjoyment from this release at all. Anyone put off by the cowbell-led “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”-style riffage of “Blue Eyed Hexe” must not have returned to “Planet of Sound” or “U-Mass” much since their youth. The hard-to-take chord shifts and errant screeching here are challenging in all the dissonant and surprising ways they should be, though it would be nice if these songs kept growing. Francis’ never-cute lyrics are as petulant and oblique as you remember, though his witty guitar is no worse for the wear than, say, Mission of Burma’s.
The one inarguably great song here is the ruefully hooky “Snakes,” about snakes, with a brackish tango of guitar leads in wispy verses that surge into a chorus that could lead a discussion on how successful alt-guitar rock can even be in 2014. Neither Indie Cindy nor current radio has enough of “Snakes,” which would’ve sounded great between “Flagpole Sitta” and “Inside Out,” had Pixies continued to see 1998.
And therein lies the rub: whether or not you’ve made your peace with the datedness of Indie Cindy, as well as the sheer pile of things you did not want to see the band do, are you going to put it on repeat? More than you think, but less than they hope.