'Holy shit,' I exclaimed upon finding this in the racks, having failed to anticipate that they might have had plans beyond those reunion EPs which ended up collected as Indie Cindy. 'Is this actually a proper new album?' I asked at the counter, because obviously I had to buy the thing even if it turned out to be just forty-minutes of Black Francis farting into a bucket lovingly and puzzlingly pressed up as 180gsm vinyl.
'Yes,' they both said. 'It's the new album.'
'Is it any good?'
'Yes,' said the woman.
'Have you heard the last one? I mean it was okay, but...'
'Yes. Don't worry,' she elaborated, 'this one's much better.'
It isn't that Indie Cindy was bad in any sense, but it just wasn't amazing where their first four studio albums were. It was material from a band getting back together after years apart, and it was a compilation, and for all that it had working in its favour, it very much sounded like both of those things. It was an assemblage rather than a complete self-contained entity, whereas Head Carrier really is the new album and very much feels like it.
I'm still getting used to the notion of contemporary Pixies in the year 2016, trying hard not to recall what I thought of the Rolling Stones back in the early eighties, and whilst I'm still not sure this is quite up there with Trompe Le Monde, it comes pretty fucking close, and the more I listen the better it gets. This older, wiser Pixies initially seem to lack some of the shock of their younger selves, as expressed in all those asides to violent Buñuel-esque images, but the stories told are as peculiar and distinctive as ever, like a more visceral take on the Talking Heads in their folksy Americana period. This one fixates to some extent on the martyred St. Denis of Paris, commonly depicted carrying his own severed head - hence the title - but how it all works is probably up to you. Musically we're back with that fucking massive guitar sounding darker, warmer, and less digitised than on the Indie Cindy material, and with Paz Lenchantin as a perfect fit for Kim Deal without any suggestion of karaoke; and it does what a Pixies record should do given that Black Francis originally formed the band with the stated intention of their being the greatest rock band of all time. We sort of lost sight of that on Indie Cindy, but Tenement Song and the faux-Tejano of Plaster of Paris are as powerful and chilling as any of their past greats.
They've still got it.