Monday, September 26, 2022

Pixies reaffirm their distinctive style on new album ‘Doggerel’

Pixies are set to release their latest album ‘Doggerel’ on September 30th.

Fans will no doubt be delighted to hear not only the consistency against previous discography, but also the experimental parts of the LP.

As is to be expected, the record is heavily fronted with guitar using increasingly interesting distortion methods that give it a real underground sounding edge - an impressive feat for a band with a career spanning over three decades.

‘Nomattery’ is an irreverent and poignant opening to the tracklist. Its self-deprecating nature feels dark and grungy, as lyrics sprawl over the first half - “Don’t waste your time on me // Don’t waste my time on you”. The beat switches up in the second half and amplifies the message by physically pushing both the song and narrator forward. There is a change in momentum, the guitar melody picks up speed and has layers of distortion running through it, lifting its impact. ‘Vault Of Heaven’ immediately follows with an initially subdued chord pattern that slowly breaks into an up-tempo and light song. Throughout is a prominent vocal harmony which helps elevate and compliment the religious imagery and themes of acceptance. When paired with the opener it’s clear that the album is a conceptual one. The beginning of a relationship feud is being explored, we eventually see this feud develop and ultimately resolve as the record continues.

The band leans into aggression especially within tracks ‘Dregs Of The Wine’ and ‘Get Stimulated’. The former sees singer Black Francis questioning “Are we gonna make it? // We gotta fix this”. The track is sung with strong conviction amongst the messy overlay of the instrument combinations, giving it a desperate and hectic nature. Within the last quarter it slows significantly, and the final two lines spoken comment on a figure who is clearly an ominous presence over the rhetoric. The frontman repeats with disgust the unusual lines “It has the charm of circuit jazz // It has the swagger of a snake with arms”. ‘Get Stimulated’ is riddled with angst and hatred, with vocals that are strained with emotion - “You say I’ve never lived // But I know I’m alive”, again bringing up the figure who seems to have inspired a lot of the emotion woven into the record.

However, there are moments of levity, ‘Haunted House’ is a stripped back acoustic song that softly lifts the middle of the album along with ‘The Lord Has Come Back Today’. The latter is an upbeat counterpart to some of the darker offerings, bursting with optimism and a simple melody that relies on softer indie tropes rather than falling massively into the rock space. This tonal shift at the halfway point of the track list balances its themes well and helps metaphorically show the passing and fluctuation of emotion.

The turning point for the runtime is ‘Thunder & Lightning’ where the narrator admits there is more at work than meets the eye - “You count the miles till lightning turns to thunder // How long until it tears us both asunder”, referring to what was once thought a biblical act. The band are releasing some of the anger shown in the stylistic choices of the next two songs. We get the upbeat, bare-boned single ‘There’s A Moon On’ and the rustic ‘Pagan Man’ which is distinctly laced with a folky twang, Pixies are letting go of previous conceptions that their music isn't evolving and starting to really experiment with sounds.

The closer named ‘Doggerel’ is a subtle way to finish the record, seeming almost like a ‘roll-credits moment’ rather than the final scene. However, this quickly allows for reflection on the themes and concept of the record. As it comes to an end, a wailing guitar solo takes centre stage that leaves any distorted notes behind and clearly commands attention - the experience has been completed.

The first half of this album is less experimental; the production remains consistent to highlight the seething emotion within the songwriting. The record then flips - as the lyrics become calmer, the production is allowed to hit different sounds as the band play around with their skill set in ways that might surprise fans. ‘Doggerel’ is a body of work that deserves to be heard in one sitting to fully appreciate its nature and development.

Jessica McCarrick
Image: ‘Doggerel’ Official Album Cover

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