Let’s talk expectations. When it comes to the much-loved and influential band Pixies, expectations for the second album since their 2004 reunion are all over the map. Inevitable comparisons to material recorded and released in the late 80s and early 90s add baggage that may be fun to talk about but can also get in the way of listening with clear ears. Such is the case with Head Carrier, an album doomed from the beginning to suffer under the weight of both heightened and lowered expectations, especially since Pixies’s 2013 Indie Cindy proved so mediocre and slick.
While not a perfect album, Head Carrier has better songs than, and a renewed sense of energy and purpose that was sorely missing in, its predecessor. The prevailing mood of Indie Cindy was that of a band trying and failing to establish new musical ground while connecting to its original muse – which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of the creative process. But the new album is more confident; this is the sound of a band having fun again.
While fans may criticize the glossy production (which was even more of a sticking point with Indie Cindy), I don’t see it as a barrier this time. The sound is obviously more super-charged and condensed but haven’t Pixies albums always sounded bigger than whatever limitations of sound engineering have existed? Whatever. “Baal’s Back”, “Oona”, “Classic Masher”, “Head Carrier” and “Um Chagga Lagga” are classic Pixies songs, ones that deserve repeated listening. In fact, any album with only two skippable songs (in this case “Talent” and “Tenement Song”) is praise-worthy. Welcome back, Pixies.