Review Summary: Surfer Rosa, along with Doolittle, is the quintessential college rock album of the 80's through the present.
This album deserves nothing less than a 5. It truly is a classic alternative rock LP. Who else can boast that they laid down the framework for all other alternative rock of the coming decade? Track for track, this is one of the most solid albums ever recorded.
It is of course, abrasive, as has been said so many times before, but it is not completely inaccessible. It may take some time to get past the squalls of noise, but once you do, it is easy to see that this actually is a very melodic album. The guitars wail and scream and Joey Santiago uses his instrument like no one had before. Kim Deal's bass work is highly melodic and is the most accessible part of the Pixies' music. The drums are extremely loud, but go with the music so well. They are always in the forefront, and it sounds as if David Lovering is playing right next to you. The last component is, of course, the incomparable Black Francis. However weird and surreal his singing was, it always fit well with the music behind it. Here's a review by track:
Bone Machine: A song that really shows how raw the production is. The drums are very high in the mix, which makes this song unique. The song has all of the elements of a stereotypical Pixies song. The guitars are loud and obnoxious, as aforementioned, the drums are crisp, and Black Francis screams like a madman, backed up by Kim Deal’s harmonies. An excellent opener.
Break My Body: Very, very good. A little bit less aggressive than Bone Machine, but the sound is also softer. One of the softest songs on the album, in fact.
Something Against You: This song has a very nice guitar part, distorted somewhat. A fairly fast song as well. Black Francis’ vocals are once again other-worldly; in the harshest connotation.
Broken Face: I know that Black Francis’ unique voice is clichéd a lot. But for a summation of the weirdest his voice could be, Broken Face is definitely the song to listen to. Just a very strange singing style, but for lack of proper voice-training, Francis’ range sure is large. The music itself is excellent once again. Very original song, that’s for sure.
Gigantic: Definitely one of the best Pixies songs ever. Strange, considering it was written by Mrs. John Murphy (Kim Deal). This song is really, really catchy, though. Everything here is great. The lyrics are hilarious, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a hint: it’s about a black man’s “love”. The music outweighs the lyrics, however; such great guitar work. Gigantic has the best of both worlds, making for one superb song.
River Euphrates: Warped guitars and a good bass line. Strange singing, but it really works well together. The drums once again are very apparent. Not that that is a bad thing.
Where Is My Mind?: Probably the Pixies’ most famous song, and it is easy to see why. This song is actually very different from the rest of the album, as it is fairly slow and it isn’t loud. It is a very high-caliber song, though, and for once the lyrics aren’t totally meaningless, inspired by Black Francis’ scuba diving in the Caribbean. The music is really strong too. One of the most memorable songs on the album.
Cactus: Actually, this song is probably my second favorite on Surfer Rosa. Again very different, with gruesome and strange lyrics, but I love the guitar and drums together. A pretty slow song, that doesn’t really go anywhere, but I like it all the same.
Tony’s Theme: I have to say that I could definitely live without the spoken part in the beginning, but that is a very small gripe, and probably the only one I have with the whole album. Other than that, another extremely catchy riff, and catchy song altogether. Probably has the most normal lyrics that Francis ever wrote. Sounds like they were having fun though, and it is a good song once again.
Oh My Golly!: Some almost indecipherable broken Spanish lyrics, but a very interesting song. The song has a distinctive and fast flow to it. Some of the fastest strumming that I’ve heard in a Pixies song, which is cool.
Vamos: This song has very little form to it, other than a propulsive drum beat that is constant throughout. It was kind of like a jam song for the Pixies, it pretty much just let Joey Santiago show off what sounds can be made with a guitar. He goes crazy in concert, and in one particular show, Joey runs is guitar against his amp. If that’s not abrasive, I don’t know what is.
I’m Amazed: Another song that has a spoken beginning, with kind of a strange story being told by Deal and Francis. Once the music starts, the guitar is very loud. It shrieks, in fact. Some more screaming by Francis. Overall, this is probably my least favorite song on the album, but that’s still saying that it is better than most any other band’s songs.
Brick is Red: This is actually my favorite song on Surfer Rosa, and I know that that’s up for debate, but it’s just my opinion. I really, really like this song. I love the strummed guitar that changes into a spiral of noise and the vocals are nice as well. Probably the “tamest” Francis’ vocals ever were in a song. He and Deal kind of harmonize in parts in a nice way. I never get tired of listening to this song.
No other band would ever make a record as unique as Surfer Rosa, mainly because no one could ever come up with a more brilliant line-up. So many fans have attested to their fondness of the album, and critics agree. To this day, it has no peers, and still sounds extremely unique and remains compelling as ever.