PIXIES, Brixton Academy – Evening Standard, 29 Nov 2016

Many years distant from their heyday, Boston’s Pixies are doing their best to remain a going concern against the odds. First there was the departure in 2013 of bassist and founder member Kim Deal, long the soft-voiced antagonist to Black Francis’s centre-stage screamer, having already left the band once to play with The Breeders 20 years earlier. More recently, the promotional plan for the band’s new album, Head Carrier, was upended by guitarist Joey Santiago’s month in rehab for drug and alcohol problems.

Santiago was back on form here, head down and concentrating to one side of the stage on the squalling riffs that made his band figureheads for the alternative rock boom. After some indecision, Deal has now been permanently replaced by Paz Lenchantin, who was more than capable of the pretty backing vocals that temper Francis’s gibbers and barks.

Lenchantin also sang lead on All I Think About Now, a new song whose languorous guitar line echoed one of their biggest songs, Where is My Mind?. Its lyrics were addressed directly to the woman she replaced, written by Francis, taking a tone of regret for the past and thankfulness for the things they achieved.

So happiness reigns, which means a welcoming space in which to resurrect the screaming surrealism of Debaser and the animalistic howling of Caribou. Drummer David Lovering had his moment in the spotlight during the crooned oddity La La Love You, and the whole room was drowned in thick smoke for a literal interpretation of the closing B-side, Into the White.

New recordings such as Classic Masher and Tenement Song were solid, noisy rockers without quite the sense of danger of old. But like the oldies, they were all short. Less loved songs were soon supplanted as the band barrelled onwards towards a bright future.