Legendary college rockers don't live up to their legacy without Deal in the mix

When it comes to indie-rock debut albums, one could argue that the Pixies' 1988 LP Surfer Rosa is as good as it gets. The ultimate combination of wacky psycho-punk (set in stark relief thanks to Steve Albini's production) and riffy college-rock, Surfer Rosa had no obvious antecedent and seemed impossible to top. But then in 1989, Black Francis/Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering managed to one-up themselves with Doolittle, which reveals an even greater pop sensibility without sacrificing any of the band's weirdo tendencies (see “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation”).

More strong songs followed until the band's breakup in the early '90s. Such a history makes the last couple of post-reunited Pixies releases all the more disappointing. Neither 2014's Indie Cindy nor the band's recent release, Head Carrier, feature bassist/vocalist Deal, and despite the presence of the Pixies' other founding members, her absence is deeply felt. Black also sounds out of gas as he attempts to resurrect the art-rock tendencies of the band's early days and goes hit-seeking with regurgitated riffs. It feels forced and — even worse for a band with such a bizarre and exciting catalog — boring. (Think twice)