By Craig Strachan
Craig’s rating: 4/5
Pixies tune back into the weirder side of their minds with twelve tracks that favourably embrace the dark and the creepy in their first album since 2016.
Beneath the Eyrie is the band’s seventh studio album and first with bassist Paz Lenchantin as a fully bonified member after Kim Deal’s exit from the group in 2013. The album details peculiar tales of girls turning into catfishes, witches and almost anything dark. However, lead singer Francis, in an interview with NME, rather characteristically lamented profoundly that the album has an “overlying concept” or a strong thematic framework. But he did admit (somewhat begrudgingly) that the songs were quite “gothic”. Something that you hope the singer would admit to though, is when the gothic parts pop up it is actually a very good and interesting LP.
In fact, it’s the weird that really makes this album. Songs like ‘Catfish Kate’, where this girl is characterised as like any other girl who lives in the mountains, tries to catch a fish for her tea but instead the “catfish grabbed her by the hand and took her to his house instead”. Put simply, it’s what happens when you mix Pixies with the Shape of Water. Songs like this are really kooky in a really appealing way. Lead single ‘On Graveyard Hill’ takes the darker and more gothic line to that paradigm. The song has some of the classic Pixies loud and quiet shifts of heavy in and out distorted guitar while manically repeating lines about “witchy power in the witching hour”.
The sound of this album often goes hand in hand with the lyrics. The opening track is a nice menacing slow builder that makes use of a great rolling bassline with drums mirroring this throughout. Bass plays a good part in the track ‘St. Nazoire’ too. It’s almost a rip of the Who’s ‘Batman’ riff punctuated by Black Francis’ throaty howls. There’s a hint of The Velvet underground and Nico album in the harmonies in ‘Ready for Love’ that gives it that haunting Lou Reed vibe. ‘This is my Fate’ is my personal favourite purely because it sounds like Pixies have done a cover of ‘Hit the Road Jack’ if the person singing it had become utterly deranged just before making the song.
Overall, this a solid effort from the four-piece. Spare a couple of filler tracks that feel like they occupy more time than they actually do (‘Los Surfers Muertos’, ‘Daniel Boone’), it is quite an exciting listen. Beneath the Eyrie may never quite reach the historic heights of their Doolittle period, but it still gives Pixies the merit to still deserve to be around making music now.