The dilemma for any re-formed band is whether to try and re-create their “classic sound” or try to develop it, to avoid becoming a tribute to themselves. Thus, Pixies’ third album since reuniting largely shuns the loud-quiet-loud dynamic their first four albums, which influenced grunge and indie rock for at least a decade. The default mode here is more conventionally anthemic alternative rock: American gothic meets British goth.
Again without founding bassist Kim Deal – who quit the reunion before any new albums were recorded – their seventh shuns the themes mental instability and violence their early albums to bring a storytelling approach to witchcraft, lost souls and death.
With Charles Thompson IV, AKA Black Francis, relishing lines such as “Look how he’s dead and her eyes all black / Just smells like spliff and Armagnac”, it’s more theatrically dark than unsettling. In On Graveyard Hill, a witch picks flowers and lights torches to create a fatal curse. Silver Bullet refers to a deadly duel. Dread a real nature fuels the gentler, mostly acoustic Death Horizon, about the climate crisis.
There’s a hint Birthday Party-era Nick Cave to the This Is My Fate, a rollicking tale drinking in the last-chance saloon. St Nazaire writhes and rocks like vintage Cramps. Generally, the songwriting is solid rather than spectacular, although Catfish Kate, a tuneful tall story about a woman who battles with a catfish so she can cook him, is a real zinger.