“Beneath the Eyrie Demos” is not an essential offering, nor is it supposed to be; it’s more Pixies, and that’s fine for now.
Pixies eighth studio album, Beneath the Eyrie felt like something approaching a return to form upon its release in September 2019. Their third since returning to the studio after a twenty-year hiatus, the album was, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag. With nearly a half dozen strong tracks including ‘Long Rider’ and their best Kim Deal track without Kim Deal, ‘Los Surfers Muertos,’ Pixies had somewhat redeemed themselves following the reviled Indy Cindy in 2014 and the not-bad-but-not-good Head Carrier in 2016.
Make no mistake; Pixies of the 21st century is an altogether different band than it was from 1987 to 1994 – less provocative, less playful, and frankly, less interesting. Bassist Paz Lenchantin, who does a formidable job replacing Deal, might actually feel like the most qualified member to be a Pixie, and instrumentally, Pixies sound like they always have. When the band really ignites, however, is when Black Francis sounds like he believes this band has a right to continue where they left off. The melodies these days are oftentimes derivative and his singing flaccid, though shades of Francis’s former angst and irony do rear their heads. It’s enough to keep faithful listeners coming back for more, and Beneath the Eyrie was a positive step toward a more dignified return.
Since then the band has followed up with two separate offerings of discarded tracks, simply titled Beneath the Eyrie Demos. Why these demos were split into two releases three weeks apart remains to be seen, but that’s beside the point. The newly released Pt 2 offers much of the same as its three-song predecessor: solidly built but inconsequential peeks into modern-day Pixies’ dynamics and abilities. More simply, they’re static dad-rock, though that genre is completely serviceable to its audience.
‘Caught in a Dream’ showcases Lead guitarist Joey Santiago’s uncanny ability to colour a song with texture and short wailing stabs, though Francis’s delivery remains aloof, emotionally hollow, and uncommitted. That affect shadows ‘Mal De Mer,’ too, but the grain in Francis’s voice and the song’s quicker tempo render it less of a slog.
‘Hey Debussy,’ however, is the band’s most promising showing here. It’s Pixies at their simplest and rawest, screeching double-stops bending over a rudimentary, thumping garage-band bassline. Ironically, Francis’s dummy lyric “Hey Debussy / are you walking with me” offers a welcome reprieve from some of the collection’s more tired tropes. It’s a classic Pixies water break from ‘Brick Is Red’ to ‘La La Love You’, and ‘Havalina’ and the kind of flash that reminds listeners of the band’s incomparable chemistry. Beneath the Eyrie Demos is not an essential offering, nor is it supposed to be; it’s more Pixies, and that’s fine for now.