Beneath the Eyrie
It’s hard not to get caught up in the shadowy darkness that permeates Beneath the Eyrie, the seventh album from Pixies. This new release, from one of alternative rock's great bands, reflects Pixies' resilience for over three decades, through tumultuous times, personnel shifts, and even a lengthy breakup,
Beneath the Eyrie fits the band’s collective persona and past repertoire perfectly, arriving exactly three years after their last album, Head Carrier. This is Pixies' second album featuring bassist and vocalist Paz Lenchantin, who replaced Kim Shattuck after the latter’s very brief tenure in the band. (Shattuck had been brought in to replace original member, Kim Deal, who left in 2013.) Lenchantin is surrounded by Pixies’ founding members — frontman, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Black Francis (Charles Thompson IV, also known as Frank Black), drummer David Lovering and lead guitarist and keyboardist Joey Santiago.
Pixies recorded Beneath the Eyrie at Dreamland Recording Studios, in West Hurley in upstate New York, not far from the town of Woodstock. Dreamland, managed by drummer and composer Jerry Marotta, is housed in a former church that was built in the late nineteenth century. The material the band brought to the church in December 2018 to record included rough demos from the Head Carrier sessions, songs written during rehearsals in Massachusetts, and tunes that were hatched at Dreamland.
The band fully embraced the gothic surroundings. “Woodstock is a very moody place in the winter," Black Francis told The Independent this summer. "It's very spooky, the studio we recorded at was an old church with a one-armed cross missing all the other limbs and lots of animals scurrying around in the walls of all the buildings. He described the studio as “totally Headless Horseman [and] Ichabod Crane.”
In fact, a giant eagle’s nest, discovered in the woods behind the studio, gave the album its title. Beneath the Eyrie often sounds as if it's drawn from B-movie thrillers, haunted theatrical tales, or ancient folklore — but it also mirrors the challenges some of the band members have recently weathered, from divorce (Black Francis) to rehab (Santiago). Witches abound in “On Graveyard Hill,” a campy rocker co-written by Lenchantin. A sinister "Rocky Horror Picture Show" vibe loops into “This Is My Fate” and the quirky and handsome “Catfish Kate,” a midtempo rocker, tells a tale of a woman who is abducted by a catfish, and becomes a catfish herself.
With more visceral lyrics like “I’ll set my broken bone with a twist and a crack,” the track “Bird of Prey” has a definite Tom Waits bent. Black Francis reaches for a guttural yowl on the blistering “St. Nazaire.” The song “Daniel Boone" is inspired by Black Francis’s near-collision with a deer while driving.
On Beneath the Eyrie, Pixies run with a darkly atmospheric theme, resulting in a marvelously macabre album that's tautly twisted. With Halloween coming, Beneath the Eyrie is not only a soundtrack for spooky nights, but one that's a lot of fun too.
Listen to a new FUV Live session with Pixies on 90.7 WFUV on Monday, September 30 at 7 p.m., EDT, also available on demand.