In March, 1988 The Pixies released their debut album Surfer Rosa on the 4A.D. label. The album was no immediate success and it is fair to state that the band grew a much wider fan-base following their 2nd album which was a full year and a month still away.
The album stood out like a sore thumb often lumped in the same section as Black Flag, etc, in alternative record shops due to its arty and eye catching sleeve. Surfer Rosa did not chart which is bizarre thinking how influential the band went on to become.
The Pixies have a feminine feel, probably because of Kim Deal’s input, the band sounded fresh and unique in ’88 and they still do. The formula of their songs hark back to The Beach Boys yet fully embrace punk. The production by Steve Albini and overall sound was a major influence on the sound Nirvana would develop after their respective first album.
Bone Machine is loud and abrasive. It rattles for a brief while before melodies lock in a way that the band would make almost their own. Lyrics flow all over the place telling a story that makes no sense at all as the listener just beams.
Break My Body gives a controlled Husker Du sound. If The Pixies influenced Nirvana it is fairly clear they took the same level of influence from Husker Du – this is not a problem at all.
Something Against You rises with drums and guitar and then simply charges like an Indie-Punk bull. Near indecipherable lyrics punctuate the song and it is over before you know it.
Broken Face is more formulaic than the previous song yet gets almost as frantic. Sheets of guitar stutter and stop-and start again with no warning or indication. The mess sounds superb.
Gigantic is the only song on Surfer Rosa not solely written by Black Francis. A more languid feel take the band to a greater level. The song would become a firm favourite at Indie nightclubs and rightly so. The album had the working title of Gigantic nodding to the fact that it one of the best songs on it. I think the album artwork made the band reconsider and go with Surfer Rosa instead.
River Euphrates offers that dreamy state-sound that The Pixies can conjour up so well. The song is simple yet deeply layered and the jabby, driving stabs of bass add so much to accompany the blended duel vocals.
Where Is My Mind? is amongst the best two songs The Pixies would ever release. I have DJ’ed just a handful of times in my life but everytime I have played this songs there are gasps as the ‘ooooh, stop‘ intro bleeds in and people realise what song is on. The song is slow but so powerful. Slow clear snare drum and guitar that is simple yet devastating at the same time. It’s a real classic.
Cactus rises from a low bass. Vocals and guitar accompany eventually and the song gradually looms larger and larger. The outro is sweet and succinct.
Tony’s Theme is a favourite of mine although it is a bit divisive – like Marmite. Playful, daft, frantic and fast – it sums up what made The Pixies essential from the off.
Oh My Golly!!! Offers Spanish and English lyrics with a whirlwind of controlled noise. It is, oddly, a sing-a-long of the near highest order too.
You Fuckin’ Die is a recording of the band talking in the studio. It is Steve Albini being playful and the band probably not knowing they are being recorded. This would not sit well on most albums but on Surfer Rosa it makes both no sense, and total sense.
Vamos is longer than most songs on Surfer Rosa and showcases the guitar sound very well indeed. The guitar licks were of no genre at all back in ’88 and the song has a near unique feel even after 25 years. Vamos has the sound of Husker Du during their Zen Arcade era and there is no better standard than that in my humble opinion.
I’m Amazed again captures the band talking and probably not knowing they were being recorded. When the song arrives it has angular, buzzy guitar and more frantic yet charmingly endearing lyrics.
Brick Is Red closes the album with noodling guitar and that controlled shambles sound. You realise you have listened to a very unique band that would go on to influence alternative music for decades to come whilst wearing their own influences both very clearly and lovingly…