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Surprise: while you were sleeping, the Pixies quietly returned to active duty with their first extended release in 22 years.

Last time the proto-grunge band had a new album to offer—the rather underrated Trompe le Monde, in 1991—it took weeks of promotion to spread the word. This time around, a simple tweet sufficed: 

Musically, the EP finds Boston's most inadvertently influential band aging gracefully, sans beloved bassist Kim Deal. There are few of the jagged edges and tortured yelps that mark Surfer Rosa and Doolittle; this is a kinder, gentler Pixies, full of measured chord changes and lushly delivered backing harmonies. There are bland moments, like the hopelessly midtempo "Another Toe in the Ocean," and then there is the surprisingly pointed "Indie Cindy," which has an odd music video to accompany Black Francis's trademark talk-singing:

But conceptually, the material is a bit less traditional. Rather than a standalone EP, the release is "the first in a series of mini-releases [the band] plans to put out sporadically over the next 15 months," says The New York Times; fittingly, it's called EP-1. It seems the band thinks the album is a "tired format":

When asked why they decided to release music this way, the band and its advisers say that the album is a tired format that is tied to the needs of the old music business. “When you’re an artist like the Pixies, you don’t have to play by those rules,” said Richard Jones, the band’s manager.

Ah, but there's a more strategic consideration at play here: Black Francis "acknowledges that it is a way to avoid somewhat the pressure of the Big Comeback Album." Hence, it's a way for Pixies to step outside the shadow of 2013's Big Comeback Album boom, which began with Bowie and My Bloody Valentine last winter and continues this week with Nine Inch Nails.

But then, the Pixies are clearly proceeding at their own stubborn pace. It's been nine years since they reunited (that's significantly longer than their classic run), and until today, all we'd seen in the way of new music has been a few stray singles (most recently, "Bagboy"). That's a long time to be chugging along as a nostalgia act. So it's good to see the band is finally back in action—nine years after reuniting.

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