Review Summary: Surfer Rosa is a magnificent blend of styles that establish the Pixies as a boundary-pushing band.
The Pixies are truly remarkable role models and heroes of the alternative rock genre. These guys (and girl) filled an empty gap in the underground music scene. Without a doubt, the Pixies planted the seed of alternative music with their unconventional song structures, their disheveled style, and their sheer ferocity. Surfer Rosa, the band's first studio album, is a unique adventure that serves as a turning point for music itself.
From the first moment of Surfer Rosa, it's clear that the band is not trying to cater to anyone's particular tastes. A majority of the album is characterized by disorder and recklessness, yet the Pixies make it sound so controlled and so purposeful. The end result is a violent, thunderous, and grand collection of tracks. Elements of the songs are both unexpected and unusual. For instance, the drums often deviate from the rhythm set by the melody in a way that sounds like the instruments are tripping over one another. The chord progression is strange and unnatural. Nevertheless, the passion and energy embedded within the LP make it all more than worthwhile.
An example of this atypical structure is the opening track, "Bone Machine", with a peculiar opening guitar riff that actively competes with the drums. This track is incredibly dense, with a crawling bassline as well as odd vocals that come closer to shouting instead of singing from Black Francis. These conflicting instruments all cease during the chorus as the voices of Francis and Kim Deal take the wheel for a only brief moment. Overall, the song encapsulates the aggression and drive for which the Pixies are known. "Break My Body" is a fierce track with abrasive guitars and grating lyrics. Francis once again demonstrates his ability to explore different vocal levels.
"Broken Face" is the album's shortest song and easily its most blunt. The track's pandemonium comes to a head during the chorus about thirty seconds in as the percussion tumbles down a hill of brutality. Kim Deal's vocals finally reach the forefront on the more structured "Gigantic", presenting some of the album's most memorable hooks. "River Euphrates", my personal favorite, explores a variety of sounds with unmatched finesse. The album's most beautiful track, it provides the listener with some breathing room for a change as Deal repeatedly sings "ride" to the point where she sounds like one of the instruments. The introduction builds up to one of the most explosive moments on the LP, as Francis frees himself to the point of yelling. Thus, the track is very liberating and very lively.
The second half of the album takes an interesting turn with "Where Is My Mind?", a solid rocker with a crunchy guitar riff. It's followed by "Cactus", which makes heavy use of an ominous guitar riff juxtaposed with a punchy drum beat. The track manages to expose another dark side of the Pixies. "I'm Amazed" is another high-speed track with a disarray of sounds coupled with distant, ancillary vocals from Francis and Deal. "Brick Is Red" provides a strong finish with impressive, bright guitars that soon give way Francis's more restrained vocals. In comparison to the rest of the album, the song is more upbeat and optimistic and signals a transition to the sound of Doolittle.
Surfer Rosa is never short of vitality, combining a variety of unconventional styles from one of the most influential bands of all time. The Pixies are true to themselves on this record, and this record paves the way for further innovation. Simply put, Surfer Rosa is an exemplary and splendid rock album.
Brick Is Red
Break My Body