WHO ARE THEY? The beloved and influential Boston alt-rockers who acrimoniously imploded in 1993, vowing never to reunite — until some giant paydays changed their mind in 2004, kicking off a comeback that has somewhat surprisingly lasted to this day (minus original bassist Kim Deal, who jumped ship again after a decade).
WHAT IS THIS? Their third album since getting back together — though it took them a decade to get around to making the first one, so they’re still kind of making up for lost time.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Well, that depends. If you’re one of those fans who still hold out hope that frontman Charles (Black Francis/Frank Black) Thompson, lead guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and current bassist Paz Lenchantin will someday create another album as good as Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, you might be in for disappointment. But if you let go of all that awkward baggage, you’ll hear their strongest and most consistent post-reunion outing — a remarkably confident collection of noisy guitar-rock laced with darkly stylish, vaguely gothy sonic and lyrical undercurrents. Granted, some of the band’s sharper edges have long been sanded down and smoothed out. But at a time when good rock records are at a premium, you could do way worse than Beneath the Eyrie (which got its name from an eagle’s nest near the studio where it was recorded).
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? New Wave of Mutilation. Or maybe Manic Pixie Dream Whirl.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On its own terms — but perhaps not immediately after listening to their back catalogue.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Assured, propulsive, muscular, serrated, literate, scrappy, whimsical, shadowy, moody, eccentric.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? On Graveyard Hill comes closer to rekindling their classic raucous weirdness than they have in years; Silver Bullet and Catfish Kate are solid additions to the catalogue; St. Nazaire is a visceral blast of fury; Bird of Prey channels the ghost of Leonard Cohen.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘This is the album they should have made 15 years ago — but hey, better late than never.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? Way more often than their last two albums — can you even name them off the top of your head?
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A MOVIE, WHAT KIND OF MOVIE WOULD IT BE? A horror-comedy starring Michael Keaton and/or Johnny Depp.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Where is your mind? You need to own this one.