Pixies – Surfer Rosa

I’m gonna admit to you, it took me a while to like the Pixies. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m almost certain it was my roommate at the time and his car’s terrible sound system that caused it. See, this was about 2004 and I didn’t yet possess an actual MP3 player, I barely even knew what one was, so personal audio was not even in my mind, much less the obsession that it is now. So the only way I heard Surfer Rosa was through these car speakers, and never the full album at a time. Of course, once I did obtain a means to listen to music through headphones that didn’t suck, the process of enjoying the Pixies would then commence, and now I totally like them.
The End!!

Oh, you’re expecting an actual blog entry, well if you insist:

True story: the CD store I worked at in Weatherford, Tx., actually kept this CD in the warehouse in the back because it has TITS on the front, yes Weatherford is a bit of a conservative town. This is an album that means a lot to a lot of people. Why? I don’t know. Sure, the Pixies had a unique sound, and they were shouty and the girl sang sometimes, but the real draw of the band still perplexes me. Oh yes, I do like them, I like them a lot, in fact, but I can’t figure out even my own enjoyment of this band.

Perhaps it’s just my innate appreciate for things that are different or otherwise abstract, as this band is definitely that. About half the time, they create songs with melodies and chord progressions that actually make a bit of sense, but sometimes I just don’t know what to think. The cool thing about Surfer Rosa is that it actually has a fair share of “hits” that really work for just about anyone.

Which is not to say the abstract portion of the music isn’t great, the opening song, “Bone Machine” is a great song. I’m not sure what it’s about, and I’m too lazy/pressed for time to check the internet, but I do know there’s child molestation and bones that have little machines in it, and isn’t that good enough? Of course, if it isn’t, the mid-chorus contains one of the Pixies’ strongest points: Frank Black and his amazing screamin’ voice.

I promise you, if I could scream like Frank Black, I would give up on conventional singing and just do his thing. I’m quite surprised he can still do it, but then again he’s not exactly the world’s best singer otherwise. He demonstrates his screamability in many tracks throughout the Pixies’ catalog, but “Bone Machine” always stands out, along with the quite quick punk number “Something Against You”, which is almost entirely screaming.

After that is one of my favorite “weird” numbers, “Broken Face”. I don’t really care what they’re singing for most of this song, the hook of the child-like “I got a broken face, uh huh uh huh uh huh ooooooh” will follow me to the grave.

Of course, to off-set all this madness, bassist/singer/secondary-songwriter Kim Deal (a girl) gets her own songs to sing, the best and first of which is “Gigantic”. It’s quite the catchy number, though the true meaning of it is unknown to even the most worldly and learned scholars that I don’t actually know. It’s been a subject of hot debate between said roommate (who wound up getting a much better car with a nice sound system, just to follow up on that story) and I as to whether Frank Black or Kim Deal is actually singing the backup to the chorus. If anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know so I don’t have to look it up.

Probably the best song on the album, and contender for my favorite Pixies song to date is the hit “Where Is My Mind?” I guess I relate to this song on more than just a listener level, since my old band used to cover this song. It’s got just about everything a good pop song needs, a nearly thorough 4 chord arrangement, root notes only only the bass (Kim was never much of an “adventurous” bassist), a simple yet tricky drum beat, and a guitar hook that is instantly recognizable. It’s like Coldplay only you aren’t a wimp for listening to it!

Another one I really like is “Tony’s Theme”, just because I like that it’s about a super-hero named Tony. Sure that sort of thing happens all the time nowadays, but back in ’88, we were lucky to have it.

So there you go, a few highlights from one of the most influential albums of our time. I think, in the process of writing all of this, that I have figured out why Pixies never really made much of an impression on me. See, this album was made in ’88, in the darkest part of the darkest night of popular music, and it must have been mind-blowing at the time to hear this unusual and unethical lo-fidelity material against the glitzy trash that was the popular music at the time. Sure there were other bands in the late 80’s who were doing experimental things and eschewing the popular sound for something a little more substantial, but that’s always the case, no matter what era of music is pervading the air-waves. It’s probably a matter of being at the right place at the right time, or maybe thousands of people wanted to hear part of Kim’s story about her teacher that was into field hockey players at the beginning of “I’m Amazed”, who knows.

Either way, the Pixies are totally all right by me, and for that reason, I am very leery of judging music that I hear inside of cars, because headphones tend to reveal a lot more subtlety, and typically that’s what I’m looking for in music. For that reason, the subtleties and strangeness of Surfer Rosa keep me coming back every now and then to jam out and scream along to “Oh My Golly!” and all that.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry, where we will once again bring you a unique writeup about a unique album, just like every day here at Album Du Jour!

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One Response

  1. Oh…it wasn’t that bad…it was better than the factory speakers were. Anyway, that was my first and last time in dabbling in car audio. It’s really expensive, and 99.9% of the people that get into that are D-bags and B-tards.

    Now, I like the Pixies because of the chaos of it all. Ii’s real crazy. I mean, who knew feedback was an instrument back then…oh, and screeching/squealing?

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