First Impressions: Pixies – Head Carrier

In one of the most brilliant openings of almost any album, let alone recent collections of music, Head Carrier’s first five tracks range from the wall of guitar on the title track to the more pop-like second composition which recalls the vocals of former Pixies collaborator Kim Deal. Then the heavy ‘Baal’s Back’ is followed by quieter fare on ‘Might as Well Be Gone’, a track played at about the same tempo as ‘Velouria’ and similar to that song. Both of these most recently discussed attempts are successful, as is ‘Oona’, which also recalls Bossanova-era material and some beautiful lead guitar that is followed in the same song by a number of great-sounding progressions.

Then comes a slight quite brief decline in song quality, although that is actually an indication of just how awesome the Pixies are as a band. As a point of comparison, the French soccer star Zinedine Zidane was once said to be possess so much skill that when he had a bad day he was still great. That is arguably the case with ‘Talent’ and perhaps even ‘Tenement Song’, both of which feature good efforts on lead guitar, the type of instrument that by some distance illuminates this album most.

By the time track nine – a song with an intro very similar to that of the band’s most famous song, ‘Where Is My Mind’ – was reached, one believed the drumming on the album from David Lovering to be apparently rather unremarkable, as he had seemingly demonstrated on this album, at least up to this point, little or no flair. However, it only took ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ to remind me of what a driving force he can at times be. His snare hits and crashes power this piece of somewhat aggressive rock like an efficient turbine. Even if, with another reminder here of an 1980s song, ‘Vamos’, one gets the sense that the group might be recycling their own music a little, the excellence of ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ and other works found here are almost enough to absolve them of any possible mistakes.

The album generally lacks the weirdness of Doolittle. For examples, see ‘Mr. Grieves’, or even the subtler quirkiness of ‘La La Love You’. None of its tracks are quite the same as the classic single ‘Debaser’. There may be enough absurdity, though, on ‘Plaster of Paris’ – which, by the way, displays something of a ‘new wave’ feel – to keep the lovers of the stranger material in the band’s canon satisfied. That song’s words include “I’ll be the son of a son of a son of a bastard/Last chance ‘fore they give up the plaster”.

The poignant ‘Saints’ is somewhat similar lyrically to songs like The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ and also reminiscent of ‘Black Letter Day’ by the Black Francis side-project Frank Black & The Catholics. It is an interesting way to close a compelling album, one that is most probably the Pixies’ very best. That is quite an improvement indeed after the relatively disappointing, but still good, material from the long-player Indie Cindy.

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