Review Summary: One of the most eclectic collections of top-notch alt-rock that the genre has to offer.6 of 7 thought this review was well written
I think I can speak for almost everyone on the site when I say that originality is something that we all crave desperately in this endless cascade of music that we listen to. You can absolutely fall in love with an album and listen to it nonstop for 3 or 4 weeks, and after a while you'll have an epiphany: "I need something different. I need something ORIGINAL." And it's off to mediafire looking for the next collection of songs to take over your life. The more you're taken aback by something you've never heard before, the more you can appreciate it. And maybe that's why when I was a 6th-grade boy in the early winter mornings of 1998, my jaw hit the floor when I first heard Pixies' "Surfer Rosa".
This album is truly like nothing I've ever heard before in my life. Alternative music has pretty much branched off into subgenre hell in 2012, with hipsters yelling at you for calling a certain band alternative when they're actually "indie-pencil-mustache-core". Alternative pop, alternative metal, grunge, it can all be traced back here. Pixies broke so many boundaries in just 33 minutes that it's difficult to count them all. First off, the way the drums were mixed was genius. They're not overtly technical, sure, but the relentless pounding of David Lovering just energizes you in a way other simple beats just couldn't. Producer Steve Albini is definitely owed some credit to how amazing this record sounds, adding small little nooks & crannies such as the incredible reverb on the drums & guitar, as well as the unedited studio banter scattered throughout the record. Black Francis's voice is simply impeccable here, as he travels across so many different vocal styles in such a short amount of time, and with incredible precision. From the no-holds-barred wailing on "Broken Face" and "Vamos", to the distorted shrieks of "Something Against You", anthemic screaming on "Tony's Theme", and the infectious harmonies of "River Euphrates" and "Bone Machine", the vocal work on here is nothing short of an enigma.
My jaw hit the floor when I heard these bass lines for the first time. I don't know what's so special about them: they're your typical bouncy, fun bass parts that have definitely been played before, but they're just played with such primal energy that you can't help but tap your foot along. Kim Deal is an incredible bass player, and although she doesn't have any extreme tap solos or slap-bass influenced breakdowns, she can truly make her instrument sing. She actually gets to sing herself on the track "Gigantic", which is easily an album highlight. While the subject matter is extremely immature, musically the song is one of the most mature alt singles up to that point, with the minute-long outro of pounding snares and crashes, infectious bass playing, and dreamy guitar chords. And to think this song is placed right between the frenzied punk of "Broken Face" and the melodic heaven that is "River Euphrates" just makes me want to applaud these guys. Bravo, Pixies, for making such a varied album and creating such an influential piece of work on such a small budget with almost nothing to go from.
Allow me to just ramble for a bit about the guitar sound, because I just want to drown in it. The chords on "Break My Body" and "Brick Is Red" are just pure bliss, and every time the songs end I'm taken a bit by surprise because the guitar had sucked me into the atmosphere of the song by that point, and it just ends abruptly after I'm put in a dream-like state by the fantastically written chord progression. "Where Is My Mind?" is another example of a fantastically written guitar line, being based off of just two simple notes and becoming one of the most anthemic and recognizable guitar parts of the late '80s, with the help of a few distortion pedals and a bit of Albini's magic. "Bone Machine" also features a killer riff with some killer string bends and the flawless "River Euphrates" offers us an abrasive guitar line with some surprisingly melodic structure.
However, if there's one thing I don't understand about this record, it's why the band is obsessed with the human anatomy. First Francis is rambling about how your bone has a little machine, then asking you to break his body, whining that he has a broken face, and then all of a sudden Kim Deal is talking about dicks. It's a bit puzzling indeed, but it definitely adds to the charm of the record.
Surfer Rosa is one of the most iconic records ever, and one of the most important records I've experienced in my lifetime. I highly recommend you go out and get it if you haven't already, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
Break My Body
Where Is My Mind?
Brick Is Red