It’s hard to remember today just how exciting the prospect of a Pixies reunion was in 2004. Here was a critically lauded, commercially underserved band that split up in 1993—just before they could reap the spoils of an alternative-rock boom they helped trigger—coming back as the top-draw headliners that acolytes from Kurt Cobain to Thom Yorke always wanted them to be. But that enthusiasm died a slow death as the Pixies continued to tour, and tour, and tour throughout the 2000s as if on a mission to hunt down every last person on the planet who needed to hear “Debaser” in the flesh. Now we’re right back to where we were 20 years ago, with fan-favourite bassist Kim Deal keen to focus on her other band, The Breeders (currently on a reunion tour of their own), rather than subject herself to frontman Black Francis’s barking orders. But instead of using Deal’s recent departure as an occasion to deep-six the Pixies again, Francis has deemed it the perfect time to issue the band’s first proper post-reunion record. Alas, EP-1—the inaugural entry in a series of planned extended players—does little to boost deflated expectations. Deal’s cool presence is certainly missed, but then, so is everyone’s: These four shockingly tame, acoustic-glossed songs offer scant showcases for Francis’s inimitable vocal hysterics, drummer Dave Lovering’s desert-storming stomps, or Joey Santiago’s scorching leads. All the power to ’em for trying to branch out at this point in the game, but they just end up sounding like Tom Petty on a mild peyote trip. As such, EP-1 is less a harbinger of a bold new phase for the Pixies than a dispiriting glimpse into what would’ve happened if they had stayed together and slogged it out through the ’90s, getting more blandly sophisticated with each new record, and earning their keep writing quote-unquote “quirky” closing-credits songs for Farrelly Brothers movies.
Playlist pick: The swooning chorus to “Indie Cindy,” I guess?