The Pixies debut album, Surfer Rosa was released in 1988, launching the ‘classic’ Pixies era from 1988 to 1991, with Come On Pilgrim and Doolittle all the way to Trompe Le Monde. It took me a while to warm up to Pixies, but when I fell for them, I fell hard: they are great.
Since their early days they have been a major influence on other bands, specifically (but not limited to) Nirvana. But with that high regard for their golden era comes a downside; I don’t think there is another band that gets so much stick from the press for not repeating their early sound. Since reforming, the Pixies new material has been pretty well panned, including Indie Cindy and especially Head Carrier. Still, I don’t want to hear them make Surfer Rosa again. The band is older and wiser, and, somehow...darker.
This new record is ‘Goth,’ according to Black Francis. Francis has gone through a divorce, and ace guitarist Joey Santiago is out of a stint in rehab, a record made now is bound to be of and from a darker place. But all is not gloom: new bassist Paz Lenchantin is a welcome, positive addition, great on the bass, backing vocals, and composition, co-writing some of Beneath The Eyrie’s strongest songs.
This record is very well recorded, sounds great, and is even a bit slick. Francis is using his lower register voice more, but Santiago’s crazed-surf guitar is same as ever. David Lovering’s drumming is nothing short of excellent. Highlights of the twelve songs on the record include the opener ‘In The Arms Of Mrs. Mark Of Cain’ starting with a super-cool spy theme type riff and ending with a huge Santiago guitar riff. ‘On Graveyard Hill’ (written by Francis with Lenchantin) has the patented Pixies bass intro, loud chorus, and lots of back and forth as Francis goes on about the witching hour and a beautiful conjurer. This song is everything you want from the Pixies. When we saw Pixies play ‘Catfish Kate’ on the Colbert Show, Adrienne remarked that the vocal didn’t even sound like Black Francis. It is thirty years on since we first heard him, and after a few listens, ‘Catfish Kate’ has really grown on me, with an undeniable hook throughout.
‘This Is My Fate’ has a looping, oom-pah beat and reminds me of a classic Tom Waits tune. It’s a drinking song for sure, with a black heart underneath.
‘Long Rider’ is another strong rocker (again co-written by Lenchantin) with an ‘I Believe’ lyrical bridge. It’s rocking but in control and classy, and much slicker than early Pixies. ‘St. Nazaire’ is a balls-out rocker, Francis screaming and swearing, Joey Santiago all over the place, while Francis spins a crude tale about going down on a Selkie. The records ends with ‘Death Horizon’ a mostly acoustic tale of drinking and mortality with a classic Black Francis melody.
I’ve listened to Beneath The Eyrie a lot, and I truly like it. I like Pixies. I like Frank Black. The press I’ve read about this record amounts to “not too bad,” or “getting better.” I think the issue with the Pixies are the expectations. They are not the college kids that made the early records. They are grown-ass adults, making a more adult version of their art. Good for them. Death to Pixies. Long live Pixies!