This image is the official album artwork for Doggerel.

The Pixies has been a musical monolith since the band’s birth in the late ’80s — they became the blueprint for ’90s alternative rock and have created an untouchable legacy of sound. After disbanding in 1993, the band has since reconvened, adding Paz Lenchantinon as bass guitarist in 2014 after Kim Deal refused to return for another album in 2013. The Pixies have released three equally unmemorable, if not terrible records since then, leaving listeners to wonder if Deal is what made them so special in the first place. 

From the first track, Doggerel feels old and tired. “Nomatterday” features a simple, worn-out drum beat that does a poor job of picking itself up and shaking off the dust — it is a lackluster and disappointing effort. The record moves into “Vault of Heaven,” an equally unmemorable track that feels like a sad mimicry of “Monkey Gone to Heaven” — the performance here is akin to that which your 50-year-old father might give in a free-time cover band. “Dregs of the Wine” is equally bad; frontman Black Francis attempts to reach the youthful vigor and grit of the ’90s and falls miles short of the mark. “Thunder and Lightning” is dad-rock in all the worst ways — it contains none of the electric energy that the name might suggest, leaning more toward bad classic rock than punk or alternative. The track is made bearable with a catchy hook, but the lukewarm instrumentation and a rhyme scheme coupling “thunder” and “asunder” make Pixies nearly unrecognizable. The production throughout the record feels stiff and almost arthritic, and the mix lacks the energy and newness that was in abundance in their earlier projects — Doggerel is grabbing and grasping without purchase. 

“Haunted House” and “Get Simulated” are the most listenable of all the tracks — they feel more authentic and less formulaic than the rest of the record. “Haunted House” has a pleasant hook that challenges Francis’ upper range in an exciting way, keeping it from feeling too drab. “Get Simulated” is reminiscent of old-era Pixies; diehard fans who might wish the last decade never happened would pause, at least momentarily, on this track. Surly and sour, “Get Simulated” features gravelly vocal and bold electric guitar grit — it is understated and fresh in ways that recent Pixie projects have lacked. Fleetingly, Pixies have successfully returned to their legacy-building surf-punk sound with eccentric vocals and punchy electric guitar. 

The record closes with the titular track “Doggerel,” which is equal parts grungy and airy, sort of leaving listeners with a good taste in their mouth after an unfortunate mixed-bag of an album. The thumping bass and shuffling guitar kit underlie a warm double-vocal in the verse, and the chorus showcases Lenchantin’s vocal abilities, though a far cry from the bizarre charm of Kim Deal’s backing vocals. 

Doggerel is not a satisfying project. It leaves listeners wishing they had instead revisited some tried-and-true classics like Surfer Rosa or Doolittle, or found a modern reimagining of ’90s punk rock. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Pixies will never reach the peaks — or even escape from the shadows — of their early days, placing them in a quandary that all once-popular acts eventually find themselves in. What happens when artists lose relevance? Where do bands go when they become musical artifacts? Are they doomed to create subpar music for the rest of eternity? Do they float away into the ether, or can their legacy preserve them forever? 

With a legacy so enormous, the Pixies are difficult to criticize — their worst projects are still unachievable by the average person — but Doggerel feels like mere mimicry of the monumental gothic sound that past albums achieved. Perhaps it isn’t fair to set any projects to the lofty standards of Doolitle. And maybe we should be grateful that our favorites keep coming back for more, but one can’t help but question if the well has run dry. The Pixies are, in a sense, crushed by the massive success of their past — perhaps they have created all they needed to create, and perhaps ex-bassist Kim Deal was right: Nobody wants to listen to a new Pixies album.

To Pixies: Please, we are begging you to stop.

Daily Arts Writer Claire Sudol can be reached at