It’s been the question on everyone’s lips since The Pixies announced they were reuniting in 2003: when will they make a new album?
The reunited group have now been touring their “greatest hits” in various guises (from unplugged shows to playing ‘Doolittle’ in its entirety ‘Don’t Look Back’ style) and plundering their back catalogue (2009’s astronomically priced box set ‘Minotaur’, the 20th anniversary ‘Doolittle’ live CDs) for longer than they were actually together in the first place. They’ve got enough goodwill in the bank for it not to feel like they are rinsing every last bit of plaid-coloured nostalgia from fans. But only just.
In a recent interview guitarist Joey Santiago admitted that Bono begged them to reform and drummer David Lovering foresaw that they will be: “wearing out our welcome soon enough. We gotta plan something new.”
And of course he has a point. In 2011, does anyone have the will to put out the bunting and celebrate another festival set or the twentieth anniversary of the hard rocking but unloved farewell album ‘Trompe Le Monde’, played live in its entirety a la ‘Doolittle’?
The truth is; the band are at nostalgic dead end. They’ve been lovingly eulogized for almost two decades now. Where to now? Well for me, it’s got to be anywhere but to a new album. Their five albums were perfect on their own. Like other alternative rock heroes The Replacements or pre-reunion Hole their oeuvre perfectly captured a band in transition. In the Pixies’ case, it was hearing them go from a grinding, Bible-referencing, (dis)harmonious quartet to sci-fi obsessed, quirky stadium rockers.
The one new song that the band managed during their reunion, 2004’s ‘Bam Thwok’, was almost a parody of the Pixies of old. It actually included the Fozzie Bear-referencing lyrics ‘Waka waka waka’. Not exactly “You are the son of an incestuous union,” is it?
As well as this dire musical warning, one has to worry about their motivation behind making a sixth album. Would they be making it because of the muse calling? Would they do it because they felt they had some unfinished musical business to attend to? No, they’ve be doing it because it would be the “appropriate thing to do at this point.”
In the Bono interview, Santiago said that the possible ‘friction’ between frontman Frank Black and bassist Kim Deal has stopped the bank embarking on new music. But this ‘friction’ was exactly the cog that powered the best Pixies music; that razor-blade, quasi-sexual tension that eventually seemed to de-rail the band. Now with the quartet sitting happily in their musical middle age, with bridges soberly mended between Black and Deal, could their pivotal ‘friction’ be anything but manufactured?
As frontman Frank Black has said before ”The band is beloved by its audience so we don’t want to fuck it up”.
He should listen to his gut instinct. Instead of ploughing on, perhaps it’s time to finally lay the ghost of the Pixies to rest.