The Pixies return with their sophomore "post-reunion" album Head Carrier. Recorded in just three weeks with producer Tom Dalgety (Killing Joke, Royal Blood), Head Carrier has all the sonic hallmarks of a classic Pixies album – tungsten guitar riffage, sun-soaked harmonies, rhythmic pummel and lyrical intrigue – while never pandering to nostalgia. The band – drummer David Lovering, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Black Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago – also officially welcomes bassist Paz Lenchantin to the Pixies' permanent line-up here. Lenchantin has been the band's touring bassist since January 2014, and played an integral part in the recording of Head Carrier.
Aligned to its palpably fresh momentum, many of its songs have a poignant undertow, acknowledging its creators' real time/real life journey. At least three songs, according to Black Francis, "fall into the sour grapes love song category," though two of these – "Classic Masher" and "Bel Esprit" – feel quite exultant. The title track and "Plaster Of Paris," meanwhile, share a somewhat thematic kinship, though the linkage is worthy of a cryptic crossword setter, turning upon the grisly fate of Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris.
Elsewhere, the songs offer a typically varied buffet of Pixies esoterica: rural roadside prostitution in France and Belgium ("Um Chagga Lagga"), the Mesopotamian deity Baal ("Baal's Back") and the legendary American actor Jack Palance, who makes a cameo appearance in the rambunctious "Talent," one of two songs whose primary musical influence Black Francis attributes to The Stranglers. The album's emotional core, meanwhile, resides in its second half, amid the plangent "Tenement Song" and the closing "All The Saints." And of course, the beatific "All I Think About Now," a tribute to the Pixies' past from its freshly alchemized now.
That the Pixies could have a viable present in the 21st century, let alone a bright future, seemed impossible during the 10 years following their break-up in 1993, and again following Kim Deal's departure. But there's always been a whiff of alchemy to this band that confounds the natural order of things. It's a large reason why they remain so special, and so beloved.