The reviewer's dilemma. Do you judge just what's in front of you or strive for some kind of context? Because Beneath The Eyrie, Pixies' sixth proper album (Come On Pilgrim wasn't full-length and Indie Cindy a collection of three EPs) wouldn't be so bad if it belonged to a new group, although you'd think they sounded seriously like a Pixies tribute band.
But it doesn't. It's by the group who shaped alternative rock through the 90s and beyond with the one-two punch of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. In that context, it's okay. Nothing more, or less. The good tracks aren't great, the less good not terrible.
Opener In the Arms of Mrs Mark of Cain thunders through the usual Pixies ingredients, bizarro lyrics and Joey Santiago's sinewy guitar lines. Catfish Kate is one of the standouts. Long Rider is a ripping start to what would have been side two. Nick Cave-esque St Nazaire is surely destined to soundtrack a Peaky Blinders slow-motion gun battle, Tommy Shelby's greatcoat flapping as bullets fly.
Encouragingly, the album's a grower — I was even more lukewarm on first listen. But you can't help think of what once was.
In 1991, band leader Black Francis told Guitar Player magazine: "We do try to be dynamic, but it's dumbo dynamics because we don't know how to do anything else. We can play loud or quiet — that's it."
Three years later, Kurt Cobain told Rolling Stone that Pixies provided the template for Nirvana's sense of dynamics — "being soft and quiet and then loud and hard". Trouble is that dynamic's largely gone: it all trots along, almost never quiet and rarely loud enough. Never mind.