Written by Maggie Knoll
If time travel were possible, the Pixies’ 2016 album “Head Carrier”, would be the vehicle to the past. As one of the most influential, original alternative rock bands, the Pixies remind us in their newest album that their sound cannot die. A very 90’s-esque sound brands the Pixies, but does not restrain the group from venturing into new ideas, lyrics and sounds. Keeping their traditional guitar-ripping sounds mixed with male and female harmonization, the Pixies mix what they know and what they want to try out.
Starting out with the albums namesake, “Head Carrier”, the Pixies jump right into their unique, sincere sound. It cannot be denied that the first sound of the album establishes the self confidence the group has in itself. No longer playing with the unwanted idea of growing up, the Pixies accept where they are and integrate their sound and style into a more present state. The lyrics to go along with each song do nothing but enforce that idea of maturation. What seems to be a mantra about falling into bad habits again, the opening song explains an internal dilemma. From the line “Is this really worth it?” to “I’m going down the drain again…” there are obvious signs of internal dilemma that brings itself up throughout the rest of the album. What seems to be a common theme is the necessity of finding oneself through the assistance of others and the sorrow which comes along with the dissipation of a cherished relationship.
While most of the songs remain on the same basis of subject, the overall sound throughout the album is not uniform. As you listen through to the middle of the album, you realize that odd-ball songs somehow snuck their way onto the track-list. For example, “Baal’s Back” throws the listener into a complete 180 turn-around. If a person were to only listen to “Baal’s Back” and nothing off the rest of the album, they would label Pixies as a “scream-o” band instead of their famous, “OG” alternative rock title. “Baal’s Back” does not fit with the rest of the songs to follow, which is confusing to the listener. The album fits a certain style of rock, and while it pushes the envelope of new sound, there are distinct songs that just do not fit.
It is an encouraged concept to dabble in many different sounds, but to grow musically is a more important goal for a band. While the Pixies remained on the same subject throughout the album, they varied in many different styles of expressing that uniform message. This makes the album seem disorganized and confusing at times. While this is true, compared to older albums, “Head Carrier” is a step towards a newer sound that can lead the band into a newer era of sound and style. The Pixies have made strides from past albums to “Head Carrier,” showing obvious signs of growth in the musical sense, which can make up for the confusion that surprises the listener halfway through the album. It cannot be denied that “Head Carrier” is a reminder of the past where alternative rock originated; it is also an insight into where alternative rock is going and what to expect in the future from such a diverse section of music.
Rating: W-P-G ½
RIYL: Beck, The Smiths, and The Flaming Lips
Key Tracks: “Classic Masher”, “Tenement Song,” and “Um Chagga Lagga”