Album Of The Week: Pixies – Doggerel

Pixies return with a halloween jamboree that feels old-school, new-school and everything in between

What would a Pixies theme park look like? Dolly has one. Zeppelin had their own rollercoaster. Now the closest the Pixies get to making their own rides is finally here – 35 years after Come On Pilgrim – skipping back and forth through time and space to celebrate the best of the band with ghost trains, sci-fi riffs and magic castles. 

“Don’t. Waste. Your. Time. On. Me.” Screams Black Francis on opener ‘Nomatterday’, spitting the same teenaged angst that started all this three decades ago. The guitars might be thicker and heavier than they used to be, but this doesn’t sound like middle-aged music. And yet there’s refinement here too. Polish, on a rough-edged table. Tempos shift, and  Surfer Rosa and Doolittle slowly give way to Indie Cindy and Beneath The Eyrie. This is the Pixies celebrating their own heritage (“don’t piss in the fountain…”) as well as proving that they’ve still got something to say. 

Pixies - Vault of Heaven (Official Video)

‘Vault Of Heaven’ brings back that big screen western dirt – LA grunge seen through a mezcal haze – but there’s a hint of something bigger and more expansive, as much Jesus And Mary Chain as Ennio Morricone.

“Well I prefer the original version of You Really Got Me”, Black opens on ‘Dregs Of The Wine’, aping an annoying mouth at a party before taking us back through memories of boozing under the Hollywood sign with Joey Santiago. The man who reinvented the sound of alt-rock is credited here too with the first writing credit on any of the band’s albums – Santiago back playing graveyard jams on guitar to Dave Lovering’s Phil Spector drums and Paz Lenchantin’s doom-laden bass.  

Pixies - Dregs of the Wine (Official Lyric Video)

‘Haunted House’ is weirdly the only track on the album that doesn’t sound like it could score a ghost train, and ‘Get Simulated’ warms up an old-fashioned rock and roll blast before spiking it with sci-fi. Like everything else on the album, it’s bubble-gum pop with a razor blade hidden in the apples.  

Not that it’s all shoots for the same target. ‘The Lord Has Come Back Today’ and ‘Thunder & Lightning’ are the kind of tracks that should have been put out as singles, just to mess with everyone’s head. Less aggressive, less ironic, and far less interested in expectations, the deeper cuts of Doggerel are some of the most interesting – flirting with a lightness that seems to suit the Pixies.   

PIXIES - There's A Moon On (Official Lyric Video)

Real single ‘There’s A Moon On’ puts the train back on its tracks. Wailing straight into Stooges snarl and werewolf rock, it’s the kind of track that sounds exactly like Come On Pilgrim at 35: grown old but still vibrating with punk spirit. 

By the time the title track closes the album, the future seems brighter (ie darker) than ever. “I’m gonna stay to the end with you,” sighs Francis, sounding more like Lou Reed when he’s not screaming; bleeding emotion maybe for the first time even as the skeleton grunge soars. Someone get these guys their own Disneyland.

Doggerel is out to buy and stream from Friday 30th September. Pixies will be touring the UK throughout spring 2023, with tickets available here.