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Pixies’s 'Beneath the Eyrie' is a grand, simmering masterpiece

The subject of the album's last song ‘Death Horizon’ is quite Beatlesesque.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 16, 2019, 12.27 PM IST
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In ‘This Is My Fate’, the Pixies do their Leonard Cohen with a stomping-shuffle.
Apt or not, let’s start with the last song of this gorgeous album. ‘Death Horizon’ starts with a single ‘Hard Day’s Night’-style downstrum. And from the moment Black Francis’s gabardine voice starts with “This drink is tranquilising…”, it could well be the Beatles’s ‘Follow the Sun’.

The pretty tune is beguiling. The song’s subject, also quite Beatlesesque, is about a man complaining about his lover thinking of another man while they lie “asleep at the beach at Waikiki”. But this is the Pixies, and this coda of their latest album, 'Beneath the Eyrie', has frontman Francis ride bareback on a tune like one horseman of the apocalypse: “Have you seen the death horizon/Just there out of view/ Way low in the sky/Beyond the sea? ”

The album starts frenetically enough with ‘In the Arms of Mrs Mark of Cain’, a gritty ditty about both resigning to, and rejoicing at, the fate of being “in the arms” of the modern world. Francis sounds like Faust raising his glass to the deal he cut a while back.

‘On Graveyard Hill’, the woman who can capture souls (break hearts?) is re-invoked from ‘Blue-Eyed Hexe’ from the Pixies’s 2014 album 'Indie Cindy'. The ragged guitars anticipate the arrival of Donna with her “flying saucer” eyes, “black and gorgeous” hair, who’s “calling out her curse” in tune with a song that contains the seeds of the Ramones’ ‘Pet Sematary’.


The next track, Catfish Kate, also has a Baba Yaga-Russian fairytale quality to it: A woman turned into a fish. The simple verse-chorus-verse — “Where is my angel fallen/Down at the river bottom/And will she get away?” — is a beautiful elegy to nature and life, a song that will now play in my head every time I partake in my favourite Magur/catfish meal at my mother’s house.

In ‘This Is My Fate’, the Pixies do their Leonard Cohen with a stomping-shuffle. ‘Ready for Love’ seems to be a riposte to Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’, a song directed at actor Warren Beatty (and two other unnamed gentlemen). After the long and distorted guitars play out, it’s almost as if Beatty is singing back: “You might think I’m vain/But I’m calling your bluff/I don’t mind the rain/ But I’m ready for love.”

Jump the queue after ‘Silver Bullet’, a crash and burn song announcing that “The shade is drawn/With stem and vine”, and you’re in the beautiful hookline of ‘Long Rider’. The grand, mythic simplicity of the G-Bb-F-C-D-Bb-G chord line is welded to the Gothic story Francis narrates: “Long Rider in the morning tide/ She took the highway to the county line/She wiped out in the modern sense.” It’s a song that makes us seek out a renegade, simpler world, even if for 3:32 minutes.

‘St Nazaire’ rock’n’holler’n’rolls, leading to the gentle, rolling glades of ‘Bird of Prey’, a song seeking vengeance in dulcet tones. The sigh and bass of Daniel Boone — “Last night I was driving around/Nothing to do/Thinking of you/I sighted there on the bend/ Reindeer and then it was through” — is about being caught in the headlights, perhaps on one’s own terms.

'Beneath the Eyrie' is a grand, simmering masterpiece. Like ink, it colours the water black. Francis, of course.

Rock And A New Role: Paul McCartney Has A New Book; Other Legends With Interests Beyond Mus...

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​Toys In The Attic

25 Sep, 2019
Sir Roderick David Stewart or Rod Stewart loves kitbashing and scratch building. In simpler words, the Hall of Famer is heavily into model railroading. He has a 1,500-square-foot model-train layout in his Beverly Hills residence, which is a model of New York’s Grand Central Station. The singer traces his interest in trains back to his childhood in London. He never had a train set, but British Rail operated not far from the shop his parents ran.(Image: rodstewart.com)
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