Review: EP-1 by Pixies (2013)

pixies-EP1-865x1024

In keeping with their “let’s just release things when they’re fuckin’ ready” philosophy, Pixies stuck EP-1 on our internets recently, promising more to come.

We have two die-hard Pixieholics here on Off Your Shelf, so instead of fighting over it like hobos over meat it was decided that we both cover a side each. That’s a lot better, isn’t it?

Side One, by Sean

1) Andro Queen

2) Another Toe

Right from the start, Andro Queen is an unusual song in Pixieland. It’s not Gouge Away, so we’d better hate it, yes? Fuck you, Pitchfork. Fuck off back into your stupid hidey-hole of wankery.

Anyway, Andro Queen. It’s really quite pretty. Very spacesome, a little bit Bossanova II – Surfer’s Revenge. Is there a smidgen of auto-tune? Mayhaps, but it’s quite subtle and seems to be used as an artistic tool rather than to mask a lack of talent or ability. It’s certainly not as intrusive as it is on modern dancefloor smash Black Paisley.

It’s quite remarkable to have a Pixies release that doesn’t start off with a massive explosion of a song. Andro Queen is intriguing and invites you into the greater Pixiemystery that awaits within EP-1.

Another Toe is an interesting beast (and it is a beast). The rhyming progression takes a little getting used to at first, but it leads into such a stunning chorus that they could have just farted for the first 30 seconds and it would have been fine. We are treated to our first classic Joey Santiago licks on this track, masterfully underlining and enhancing without wanking all over the place like certain other guitarists might be tempted to.

Of course, when you let him loose he comes up with a great ghoulish bastard of a solo. Can you call it a solo? I’m calling it a fucking solo.

Are these songs insta-classics? No, but the Pixies have never been that way. EP-1 might take some time to sink in next to Surfer Rosa but it’ll get there. Buy it! And listen to side two, of course…

Side Two, by Holly

3) Indie Cindy

4) What Goes Boom

As a huge Pixies fan since the tender age of thirteen when a rather catchy track concerning a Japanese man driving his car over a cliff somehow managed to reach me on an existential level, I, like Sean, embraced this new EP with a happy face. Their first collection of songs in a number of years, and since the replacement of the inimitable Kim Deal with Female Bass Player Called Kim #2, a heavy sense of anticipation settles on the ears as one sits down to listen. Luckily, it doesn’t disappoint.

Indie Cindy takes its title from a term popularised by a semi-well known song by a band about as far removed from the Pixies as Meshuggah to Miley Cyrus. The good news is that the influence ends there. The song kicks off as classic Pixies, a smooth easy-going rhythm with the confident, casual lead guitar we’ve come to expect from these guys. Personally I hear a little Where is My Mind? influence touching the first half of the song.

The ‘new’ Pixies blasts into its own in the second half; fast, furious guitar licks just slightly too chaotic to be called ‘tight’, Francis’ hectic babble-singing riding over them. This works, somehow, by the quick transfer to the softly spoken, hypnotic chorus that has practically become a trademark. The song, according to Francis himself, is a direct attempt to re-seduce fans after their hiatus; suitably enough, it is comfortingly familiar while demanding that listeners stand up and take notice. And it works.

What Goes Boom, after the slow seduction, seems at first to be decidedly un-Pixies song. Squealing licks continue throughout, carrying Francis’ newfound confidence as he loudly proclaims his lyrics with an air of knowing that his seduction was successful. While the track slips past as generic rock on the first listen, subsequent attention reveals that many of the nuances and characteristics of the Pixies we’ve loved for years remain present, bold and strong. This track is just louder, more confident, slamming the band’s return to the music scene down in a way that can’t be ignored. And why would you want to?

Advertisements

Review: Disintegration by The Cure (1989) plus FREE BONUS REVIEW FOR FREE

disintegration

It’s raining. I’m at work. The servers are down, meaning no actual work to do…

So what should I do?

Listen to Disintegration by The Cure, you say? Well, if I must…

"Yus!"
“Yus!”

Plainsong has a bunch of pretty chimes, very chunky keyboards, very big drums. Robert Smith’s guitar playing is immaculate and ethereal as always, though I don’t understand a word of what he’s singing. It sounds like it’s probably super meaningful though. Something about cold and death and the end of the world. The usual.

The glittery shimmer effect makes its first appearance here. It’s always ridiculous. It fits.

More shimmers for Pictures of You, which is a million fucking minutes long. It’s about that time Robert Smith’s house killed itself (with fire) and he found some pictures of his wife afterwards. Or something. This marks one of the few times in history anybody has ever known what a Cure song was about.

It’s around this point where you start to think that Robert Smith is probably playing all of the instruments, apart from the drums. Everything is very… Robert. The drum sound is almost your typical EIGHTIES DRUM SOUND, but on closer listening sounds more or less like natural drums if they were played in a deep well. Very poetic.

Closedown continues similarly. Instrumentally it’s really quite stunning, with the wettest bass I’ve ever heard and a return to the chunky keyboards. Mmm, chunky. There are words in it somewhere, I think. It’s safe to say that they probably don’t live up to the music though. This is the Robert Smith problem, but I forgive him. Maybe you can too.

Lovesong is, according to Wikipedia, one of the more cheerful, upbeat songs on the record. Like fuck it is. It is, as the name suggests, a love song… but a remarkably desperate one. Cheer up, you bugger.

A man who knows a thing or two about poetry.
That’s a very good try, Robert.

Last Dance sounds like elevator music. It’s dreary and murky and not very exciting, like Doncaster. Boring. Just… fucking boring. Thankfully, Lullaby is next. You know this one. It’s the one where Spiderman is taking Robert Smith for dinner. It’s good and plinky, and occasionally you get a nice cold sweep of synth. What a shame there was such a shit song before it.

Fascination Street follows, with the best (only) extended bass intro you’ll ever hear. This is one of the few songs where it sounds like there’s somebody else playing instruments as well. Lots of nice guitar interplay while Smith sings like he’s driving his car too fast. His voice seems to serve as a reminder that it’s totally not murder if you die at the same time.

It’s a good song.

Prayers for Rain. Mope. Fucking mope, Robert. Unfortunately, the band decided to set their Yamaha to a sound that can only be described as ‘bass duck’ for the backing. How distracting. This song did not need to be six minutes long.

They got it the wrong way around.
Duck bass would have been the superior choice.

The Same Deep Water as You is nine fucking minutes long. That’s fucking ages. For fuck’s sake, Robert. I said I’d listen to your problems but this is a bit much. It’s good, but perhaps not nine minutes good. Seven minutes good. It’s all a bit dirgetastic. Maybe it’s symbolic and all, like Robert Smith is having a funeral for his fucking heart or something. Jesus. It rains at the end, like he prayed for.

Now it’s time for the title track! Yay!

Eight fucking minutes. I’ll be a fucking grandparent by the time this album’s done. Thankfully, this song has more in the way of progression and is also a bit faster. I swear I almost heard a gospel choir backing around five minutes in. Clearly I’m going mental.

Anyway, title track… lyrics about ‘the end’… should be the last track, shouldn’t it?

Nope. Bonus tracks for CD. You lucky vinyl bastards.

Homesick. Seven bastard more shitting minutes.

You know what? It’s great. It’s a real mid-afternoon hangover of a song. It brings with it a nice atmosphere of possible redemption. Maybe it’s because Robert is feeling better, maybe it’s because this fucking album is nearly over, who knows?

Untitled is a short track at only six minutes. It’s more or less a straight continuation of Homesick, thematically speaking. There’s a nice loooong fadeout at the end, leaving us with some synth accordion. Lovely.

Far from being superfluous, these bonus tracks serve to finish the album the way it ought to. Robert Smith deserves to be happy, as do all of you.

12303_106644799373899_709945_n
Chin up.

BONUS REVIEW – ENTREAT

The_Cure-Entreat-Frontal

It’s all the songs from Disintegration – apart from Plainsong, Lovesong, Lullaby and The Same Deep Water as You – played live in concert.

While the arrangements aren’t radically different, the songs do benefit from having the studio murk stripped away and the missing songs help to streamline the whole experience nicely, turning a 70+ minute slog into a neat 40 minute joyride.

The live sound is better for some songs than others. Last Dance is no longer so fucking boring, but Fascination Street loses some power. I can live with it though.

Prayers for Rain suffers the most, as bass duck is now one of the most audible elements of the track. Thankfully, it’s a full two minutes shorter this time. Thanks, Rob

All told it’s pretty straightforward, but a nice thing to have if you can get it for £2 like I did. I hear that the super-deluxe edition has the whole Disintegration album live. I’ll let you decide if that’s a thing you want.

Disintegration track list:

  1. Plainsong
  2. Pictures of You
  3. Closedown
  4. Loveson
  5. Last Dance
  6. Lullaby
  7. Fascination Street
  8. Prayers for Rain
  9. The Same Deep Water as You
  10. Disintegration
  11. Homesick
  12. Untitled