Alt-rock veterans Pixies are more than battle-hardened these days. The quartet’s eighth studio album Doggerel follows 2019’s serviceable Beneath the Eyrie after two shaky full-lengths Indie Cindy and Head Carrier in 2014 and 2016, respectively. The road after their momentous 2004 reunion has been rocky at best, but not without some fluttering highs on the road and a handful in the studio.
Bandleader Black Francis promised a bigger, bolder, and more orchestrated release this time out with fewer short punk tracks. That largely holds true here as guitarist Joey Santiago and bassist Paz Lenchantin keep the Pixies rock machine creaking along. Drummer David Lovering also gets to stretch out and put in plenty of work on the 12-track collection of genres and Pixies looks. Variety and synchronicity are the keys to the effectiveness of this record: The acoustic “Haunted House” pairs well with “There’s a Moon On,” a squalling, werewolf-themed track. “Who’s More Sorry Now?” is probably the most straightforward heartland rocker the band has ever created, and the acoustic and electronic crunch of “Get Simulated” is fun and a bit flabby in the melody section.
On “Vault of Heaven,” Francis tosses out an odd proclamation of love for 7-Eleven before traveling to outer space during a solid Spaghetti-Western doom-folk song that allows Santiago to flex his Ennio Morricone inspirations. The early single “Dregs of the Wine” was written by Santiago and doesn’t continue this experimentational thread—it’s very much stuck deep in the ’90s alt-rock wheelhouse that Pixies’ early albums helped construct for so many indie-rock bands. Santiago also wrote the lyrics for the album’s title track, solidifying his own legacy within the group.
The festival-rocker opener “Nommaterday” with its “Don’t piss in the fountain” refrain sees bassist Lenchantin continuing her slow and steady slink away from the long shadow of original Pixies bassist Kim Deal. It sets a moored melodic tone for the rest of the album before the foundation starts to crumble during its second half as the tracks slow down or become meandering rock anthems with little purpose or punch (“You’re Such a Sadducee”).
The later acoustic numbers “Thunder and Lightning” and “Pagan Man” also land with thuds. Pixies probably won’t ascend that alt-rock mountain again as they did in the ’90s, but that’s OK—it's good to hear them having fun again, and some of these tracks are gonna slot in just fine among the rest of their near-four-decade discography.