The Pixies’ seventh studio album Beneath the Eyrie is the sign of a band that is happy in itself and returning to its strengths. Working again with producer Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Ghost), the band opt for a more exploratory direction than 2016’s rock-centric Head Carrier, making Eyrie the group’s most diverse release since 1989’s Doolittle.
The singles released so far, Catfish Kate and On Graveyard Hill, demonstrate the wider sonic palette the Pixies are working with on the album. Where Graveyard is classic Pixies ‘rock’, with its quick-paced bass and guitar lines intercepting and interrupting one another, singalong choruses and Black Francis’ dynamic calm/rage vocals, Catfish is a different kettle of fish, with its upbeat, indie pop feel and the lyrics’ rustic, folky charm. Francis even seems to go as far on Catfish as to reference the song’s influences, Nirvana and Go-Betweens, in his prelude to the tale; “call me Black Jack Hooligan… / (I) came from Aberdeen/ to live among the Go-Betweens”.
Elsewhere, Ready For Love shows off the band’s surf-rock skills, while Francis gently misdirects the song’s innocent love theme with his refrain of “You might think I’m vain / But I’m calling your bluff / I’m ready for love”. The song fades out with a beautiful solo from lead guitarist Joey Santiago that is noisy, yet melodic, verging on Graham Coxon-esque territory.
Bassist Paz Lenchantin, now on her second Pixies record, is handed her first studio lead vocals on the moving Los Muertos Surfer. Lenchantin’s vocals are expertly delivered and provide a level of fear and suspense to the narrative, equalled by the layers of Santiago’s twangy guitar that shimmy for position throughout the track.
The opener, In The Arms of Mrs Mark of Cain is another stand out. A cauldron of sneering distorted guitars, pummelling drums and keyboards that sounds like early to mid-80s The Cure (think One Hundred Years or A Forest). Francis’ distinctive vocals deal with the abstract, a Mrs Mark of Cain, and concludes the first half of the song with the pun, “If you think I am able, then I have some news for you”. A key change opens the song’s second half, and ramps up the drama, while the lyrical content changes to Hollywood, which “feels so damn good… I know that I’ll be staying,” an inversion of the classic line from The Mamas & The Papas’ hit California Dreamin’.
Long Rider is the Pixies cloning Weezer, which the band expertly pull-off. Francis and Lenchantin’s vocals are echoed and affected brilliantly, with the two combining and then bouncing apart to enhance the melodic tension as more and more guitar layers are added til the song’s finale.
While the band may not have reached the heights of previous records on Eyrie, the album is unquestionably a solid step in a positive direction. The main flaws of the record are not flaws in themselves but rather ‘lacks’; tracks where the band has not served the song as well as they could have, or they were keen to pursue a new direction, meaning the result is inevitably to be up for grabs. At the end of the day, the direction the group has chosen on Eyrie provides the group room to explore into the future, a massive positive for anyone looking forward to more new Pixies into the future.