I admittedly don’t know the Pixies as well as I should. Songs like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Where is My Mind?” have been inescapable for as long as I’ve been old enough to make my own decisions about what music to listen to, and Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, and Bossanova have been on my iPod for as long as I’ve had one (nearly ten years). And while I know that they’re one of the great bands of my lifetime and I do love those albums, I almost never listen to them and none of them are sitting on my shelf among the rest of my vinyl. In fact, I think I’ve listened to the Breeders’ Last Splash more than I’ve listened to any Pixies record, which probably qualifies as blasphemy in some circles of rock fandom.
Now there’s a new Pixies single, their first in nine years. It’s very good, but it feels out of time. “Bagboy” does not sound like it was recorded in 2013. It could be an outtake from Bossanova or Trompe le Monde, and it makes me worried for the Pixies’ future. A band that hasn’t put out an album in 22 years is unlikely to create anything lasting by strip-mining their old material for parts. Take My Bloody Valentine. mbv, their first album in (coincidentally) 22 years was good in the same way that “Bagboy” is good. It sounded like the work of the same band that recorded Loveless, and it was supremely exciting when it first came out, yet it lacked the spark that drove the band’s best work and they sounded like they were on autopilot. Now is anyone still listening to or talking about mbv? How many best of the year so far lists has it shown up on? By trying to reproduce their masterpiece, My Bloody Valentine only succeeded in making a good but underwhelming album, and mbv won’t find its way into the canon in the same way that Isn’t Anything and Loveless have.
If there is a new Pixies album coming, and “Bagboy” is an accurate representation of what that album will sound like, then it will suffer the same fate as mbv. It will dominate the internet for a week or two and then disappear into the ether. My Bloody Valentine deserved and was capable of better, and the Pixies should aspire for better as well. Besides, the Pixies without Kim Deal, even with the Kim Deal sound-alike backing vocals that the band produced for “Bagboy,” isn’t really the Pixies. Like any Pixies fan or rock fan in general, I am eagerly awaiting new Pixies music, but “Bagboy” only leaves me somewhere between wary and cautiously optimistic for the future.