Fresh dose of Pixies magic
The Pixies. Picture: Diane Bondareff

In 1991, the same year Nirvana unleashed teen spirit via Nevermind, Pixies issued Trompe le Monde, their fourth and apparently final album.

The nebulous Boston alternative rockers inspired Kurt Cobain and his Seattle chums, yet Pixies never hung around long enough to cash in when grunge swarmed across the globe, eventually morphing into the horrific post-grunge wave of mutilation partly responsible for Creed, Matchbox 20 and - gulp - Nickelback.

These unassuming giants of alt-rock made their split official in 1993, when surly frontman Black Francis (real name Charles Thompson IV) announced it on radio to fans as well as the other members.

His solo career as Frank Black had peaks and troughs - the first two albums are crackers - while bassist Kim Deal spearheaded the cool Breeders alongside twin sister, Kelley. Guitarist Joey Santiago suffered depression, played on Frank Black's albums, wrote music for movies and TV and kept in touch with the others. Drummer David Lovering became a professional magician. Trompe le monde (fool the world), indeed.

Ever the leading protagonist in the Pixies tale, Francis spread rumours of a reformation and in 2004 the band was back together.

There was a world tour to mark the 20th anniversary of career-best album, 1989's Doolittle. Ever contrarian, the jaunt didn't hit Perth until March 2010, when they played a blistering concert at Belvoir Amphitheatre.

There was no new music, besides Bam Thwok, a ditty Deal penned for the Shrek 2 soundtrack.

Finally, and in secret, the quartet headed into Rockfield Studios in Wales in October, 2012, with producer Gil Norton, who had helmed their three classic alternative albums of 1989-91.

Six days into the sessions, Deal walked out (she later hit the road again with Breeders).

The three remaining Pixies decided to continue, recording tracks that would be released as four-track EPs - EP1 in September, 2013, EP2 in January and EP3 last month. This week these 12 "new" songs will be re-released as Indie Cindy, technically the first Pixies album in 23 years.

Album opener (and EP1 closer) What Goes Boom immediately re-establishes the Pixies template: scarifying riffs, Francis' schizo vocals and undeniable forward momentum. This is followed by the fantastic off-kilter acoustic rocker Greens and Blues before the title track sees Francis snarling like a Beantown Lou Reed - "I'm the Burgermeister of purgatory", "You put the cock in cocktail" - over a chugging acoustic rhythm and descending chords.

The sampled, beat-driven Bagboy, released as a free download last year and featured on EP3, is another excellent dose of hipster lingo and skewed guitar rock. It's totally rad, as is the flat-out big rocker Blue Eyed Hexe from EP2, which finds Francis screaming like Brian Johnson over AC/DC-esque thunder.

The frontman switches between deadpan scowl, sweet falsetto and deranged caterwauling, spitting provocative lyrics that put most young so-called punks to shame. For fans familiar with the first two EPs, the chiming surf guitars and keening vocals of Ring the Bell ("I've been away for a long time") and soaring rock finale of Jamie Bravo make the EP3 material worthy additions to the previously released eight tracks.

Because they were recorded during the same sessions with the same producer, the 12 tracks exist comfortably as an album. While Indie Cindy is incapable of making the same sonic dent as Doolittle or Bossanova, even the most casual fan should add this to their collection.

Despite (or perhaps because of) Deal's sudden departure, Lovering reckons the 2012 studio time was more enjoyable than he remembered the rush of making those three acclaimed albums.

"I went in with the best attitude," the 52-year-old told AAP recently. "In other recordings, the older Pixies stuff, I was very frustrated in the studio because they were happening quicker and quicker and quicker, where you didn't get a chance to learn that much.

"This was a joy to do."

After a short stint with the Muffs' Kim Shattuck, the Pixies now tour with Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan).

The foursome will play four nights at the Sydney Opera House next month as part of this year's Vivid Live festival. The songs from Indie Cindy will neatly sit alongside favourites such as Debaser, Alec Eiffel and Here Comes Your Man, at those gigs.

"We've been together doing this reunion longer than we were initially a band, and that's surreal," Lovering said.

"I think we're playing the best we've ever played and it's good and powerful."

The West Australian

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