Review: "Head Carrier" - Pixies

by Joe McIndoe,

In a recent interview, Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago made it clear he did not want the band’s latest album, Head Carrier, to be bogged down by demands for nostalgic revelry. The 12 tracks may not wallow in the joys of yesteryear but, the past serves as a platform for some of the LPs most interesting offerings.

One such trip down memory lane comes in the form of All I Think About Now. It’s a melancholic thank you note to long-time bassist Kim Deal, made all the more notable by the fact that her replacement Paz Lenchantin co-wrote and took up the vocal duties on the track. Lenchantin’s voice carries with it an air of sincere regret as she sings:

“If I could go to the beginning/Then for sure I would be another way/Make it better for today…“

Despite having nothing to do with Deal’s surprise exit back in 2014, the decision to have Lenchantin front the track is definitely rewarded as she offers up a gentle and optimistic olive branch. Her contributions also serve as a welcome contrast to front man Black Francis’ moody tones found throughout the LP.

The album’s bookend, All the Saints, also proves to be a lyrically strong if short track seemingly dedicated to those whom have passed on.

“All the saints that I love, some below some above, from this world they were torn, from their seed I was born…“

Francis Sings after the band’s guitar and drum combo wistfully sets the stage for the song’s brief lyrical burst.
The composition is enough to make you think of slowly drifting away, courtesy of some sweetly melodious guitar. Credit again goes to Lenchantin, who complements Francis’ lead vocals on this downbeat piece.

For those Pixies fans looking for things to get a little quirkier a la, Broken Face, or Monkey Gone to Heaven they may be a little disappointed, as there isn’t anything quite so out of left field on Head Carrier. Nevertheless, there’s enough depth, obscurity or at least ambiguity within the lyrics to either reward or frustrate the listener depending on their point of view.

Although, the work is always enjoyable to listen to from a purely musical standpoint the record is by no means perfect. Tracks like Tenement Song, Plaster Of Paris and the title track leave you feeling like you might have missed the point, with lyrics that are either a little too cumbersome or a little too clever for their own good.

Even Bel Esprit, a tale of a simple man vainly trying to find favor with an incompatible lover, requires some use of Google translate.

The metal rocker Baal's Back also proves to be a misstep as the band misjudge amping things up and crowd out the lyrics with way too much raucous roaring.

Despite this, Head Carrier proves a worthy release for the latest incarnation of the Pixies.

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