It’s Pixies’ otherworldly gaze that has always made them so appealing. While their blue-collar attitude, punk approach and quiet-LOUD simplicity would inspire the grunge movement that brought alternative music crashing back down to Earth, the realm of Black Francis and co has always been more of a psychedelic fever dream of myth, legend, bible scriptures and the fantastic. With seventh album ‘Beneath The Eyrie’, that fascination takes a much darker turn. This is their witching hour.
“My memories are all fables, so I’m trying to get at the truth,” Francis knowingly croons on the rollicking gothic-meets-Western opener ‘In The Arms Of Mrs. Mark Of Cain’. With a little fiction, maybe they can reflect the horror of the now – while leaving it entirely to your imagination. ‘Graveyard Hill’ is your textbook Pixies warped-punk banger, this time a clap-along anthem of being seduced by black magic, before ‘Catfish Kate’ blends grunge with folk to tell us of a woman bound in a fight to the death with, yes, a fish.
Steeped in their idiosyncrasies, this is the most comfortably confident that Pixies have sounded in years. With Francis’ hallucinogenic world growing more widescreen, Joey Santiago’s fretwork is wizardly and wonderful, while the basslines and backing vocals of Paz Lenchantin now feel intrinsically threaded through Pixies’ DNA. It adds up to one hell of an adventure in sound; from the playfully vampiric troubadour touch on the Halloween waltz of ‘This Is My Fate’ and ‘Bird Of Prey’ that calls to mind early Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, to the Tex-Mex groove of mini-epic ‘Silver Bullets’ and surf rock bop of ‘Long Rider’.
‘St. ‘Nazaire’ is Pixies at their most menacing and unhinged, before the pysch-folk balladry of ‘Daniel Boone’ and the jauntily macabre ‘Death Horizon’ give the record a very human ending. As obsessed with death as this album may be, there’s a vim and a life to it that makes for a bittersweet combination.
They’ll probably always live in the shadow of their impeccable 88-91 purple patch, but ‘Beneath The Eyrie’ is still arguably their most consistent body of work since their 2004 reformation and certainly their most inventive in 28 years. What a spooky surprise – that this incarnation of Pixies would turn out to be such a dark, dark horse.