Albums Of The Week

Throwback to the 1990s

Pixies, comprising lead singer Black Francis (centre) and bassist Paz Lenchantin (right), have released their first proper studio album since they reunited in 2004.
Pixies, comprising lead singer Black Francis (centre) and bassist Paz Lenchantin (right), have released their first proper studio album since they reunited in 2004.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

New albums by alternative-rock bands Pixies and Teenage Fanclub are reminiscent of the sound that made them indie darlings of the decade

Two elders of the alternative-rock scene, Pixies, from the United States; and Teenage Fanclub, from Scotland, have new albums - and they are comfort food for the 1990s soul.

An influential band, whose brand of unhinged pop-rock influenced many other great bands from Nirvana to Radiohead, Pixies have finally released their first proper studio album since they reunited in 2004. Indie Cindy (2014) does not count as it is a compilation of three earlier EPs.

There is not a lot of experimentation going on here. The band seem content to dip into an old bag of tricks that made their oeuvre distinctive.

The odd time signatures are found in tracks such as Baal's Back, which also features frontman Black Francis' familiar hollers. Um Chagga Lagga's punkish energy can be traced back to their 1988 debut Surfer Rosa.

  • ALTERNATIVE ROCK

    HEAD CARRIER

    Pixies

    Pixiesmusic/PIAS

    3.5/5 stars

    ALTERNATIVE ROCK

    HERE

    Teenage Fanclub

    PeMa

    3.5/5 stars

Francis' male-female vocal harmonies with former bassist Kim Deal are revisited here with Deal's replacement Paz Lenchantin on Might As Well Be Gone, which is pure Pixies.

Purists might decry the creation of new songs without the beloved Deal, who left in 2013. Sentiments aside, the Argentine-American Lenchantin, formerly of alternative-rock bands A Perfect Circle and Zwan, sings and plays almost like a Deal clone.

Lenchantin deals with this issue head-on on All I Think About Now, which she composed and co-wrote with Francis as a thank-you to Deal. "I try to think about tomorrow, but I always think about the past," Lenchantin sings on the track, which is almost a direct copy of one of the band's most famous tunes, 1988's Where Is My Mind.

That line, for Pixies fans, sums up the new album.

Across the Atlantic, Teenage Fanclub's layered melodies and pleasant disposition come to the fore on Here, their 11th album.

"Simple pleasures, are all we need," singer-guitarist Raymond McGinley croons amid jangly strums on Hold On, while the triple harmonies between him and fellow singer-guitarist Norman Blake and singer-bassist Gerard Love shine brightly on the dozen tracks.

But the songs are not quite as twee as those of their Scottish compatriots Belle and Sebastian, dialling in just the right amount of crunch in the overdriven guitars and, in the case of The First Sight, brassy horns to balance the breezy tone.

Their penchant for intriguing, bittersweet hooks is exemplified in Live In The Moment and Hold On. Moments such as It's A Sign's elegant guitar-keyboard interplay add sparkle to the overall sound.

Like the Pixies, Teenage Fanclub do not stray too far from the sound that made them indie darlings in the 1990s. Their sun-kissed burst of Byrds-influenced guitar pop feels as snug as a well-worn blanket.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Throwback to the 1990s'. Print Edition | Subscribe