When the year 1990 rolled around, the Pixies were arguably one of the biggest alternative rock bands in the world. In 1988, the Pixies released their first album, “Surfer Rosa”, and boy did it hit the music world with a powerful bang. “Surfer Rosa” is an alternative dream in cd form. Every song is greatly backed up with in depth instrumentation. There are absolutely no fillers on the album whatsoever, and the cover is obscene but priceless. Many artists up to this day have said that “Surfer Rosa” has influenced them greatly, including the late great Kurt Cobain. But if “Surfer Rosa” influenced many people, “Doolittle” must have started a movement. What you’ve got here on Doolittle is technically the “Dark Side of The Moon” of alternative music. It’s got everything, from nasty instrumentation parts to songs that change the mood of the album. After a short hiatus from the music industry, the Pixies came out with there runt of the liter album, “Bossanova”, a very experimental and heavily influenced surf rock album. While the Pixies were making “Bossanova”, they finally saw the payoff from “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle” comes in forms of $100 dollar bills and European royalties. During this time period, Frank Black, the “leader” of the Pixies, started to get greedy, thus leading to his power hungry mood change. This is evident on “Bossanova”. Black Francis got inside of Kim Deal’s head, controlling how she played the bass, as well as limiting her contributions to the band. In short, the tension was rising between the Pixies, especially Deal and Francis, and because of this, makes “Bossanova” a mediocre, but underrated Pixies album.
The Pixies are-
Black Francis- Vocals, Guitar
Kim Deal-Vocals, Bass
“Bossanova”, along with what many have said to be the Pixies weakest album, is probably the most experimental Pixies album. Joey Santiago and Black Francis had always been huge surf rock fans. That influence is very obvious throughout most of “Bossanova”. The first song on “Bossanova”, Cecilia Ann, takes this idea and runs with it. The very first note of Cecilia Ann is that of a guitar that has that heavy, distorted surfer rock guitar sound. Then everything comes in as if it’s a mirage. Those heavy sounding drum beats, the powerful bass line, and the guitar part all mix together to make the perfect song for a surfer, but not for loyal and diehard Pixies fans. Allison is another watered down surf rock tune. David’s drum part is tight while at the same time doesn’t miss a beat, and Joey’s killer riffs and heavily effected guitar part creates a nice mesh for Francis’s heavy vocals.
While the surf rock feel on “Bossanova” is quite evident, the Pixies bring out their old habits. The Pixies are very famous for Black Francis’s choppy and rough vocals. Many of the songs of “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle”, Francis does not sing, but yells out the vocals. Old tradition strikes on the second track of “Bossanova”, Rock Music. Usually on the songs he yells, you can pick out some of the things that Francis says, but on Rock Music, you can’t understand one word he says. Not one word. Rock Music sounds like somebody yelling put to music. The vocals may be shenanigans, but the instrumentation makes a perfect cover for the crazed vocals. Joey puts a few really powerful riffs together, and David’s drum part compliments the guitar very well, creating a nice backing post for the crazy vocals.
The singles of “Bossanova”, which are Dig For Fire, Allison, and Velouria, are probably the best songs of the album. Dig For Fire wonders into the land of Pixies yesteryear, engaging that more dirty punk sound. This is the track Kim contributes to the most, adding her ghost like but dreamy vocals, and an energetic bass line. The bass on Dig For Fire is probably the loudest bass line on “Bossanova”. It pushes the song along at a nice, smooth pace, but at the same time gives Dig For Fire a cunning edge. The guitar backs the bass part perfectly, as it mimics the swift sound of an earlier Pixies guitar line, while maintaining a nasty attitude. And Black Francis’s vocals give the song the finishing blow, with more laid back but still up front, awesome vocals that flow beautiful with the instrumentation. If there is a Pixies classic of “Bossanova”, it’s definitely Velouria. Velouria is an abnormal mix of surfer rock and the older punk rock that the Pixies are so infamous for. Joey’s guitar doesn’t stick out as much, giving the room for Deal’s monstrous bass line, a futile mix of strength and shear beauty. And what’s there to say about the vocals? Best vocals on the album. Francis returns to his older, more solidified style of singing, backed by Deal’s haunting vocals. The vocals add an incomparable layering to Velouria, which is hard to spot on most of the album.
Though “Bossanova” has some classic Pixies tracks, there is quite a bit of filler. I mentioned Allison earlier in the review as being a heavier surf sounding track. But at just 1:17, one cannot help to ponder the fact that Allison may just be a song to waste time off of the album. Another song that could fit easily into the filler category is that of Hang Wire. Lets’ admit it, the guitar line doesn’t match up to the many advanced Joey Santiago guitar lines we know and love. For this fact and that Kim Deal’s bass line is hardly noticeable, the vocals don’t have the best quality. Black Francis’s vocals drone on for the entire song, which really gives Hang Wire a low mark. The fillers are what really brings “Bossanova” down.
As the old saying goes “Change is good”. Is this true for “Bossanova”? Yes and no. If the Pixies wanted to release a hardcore surf rock album, they should have released one during the pre “Doolittle” era, not after. But they don’t fail, because they really bring out a solid layering of instrumentation and vocals, giving “Bossanova” a much needed pop. It many not be the best Pixies album out there, but with a different sound and alright musicianship, change may be good for the Pixies.
Is She Weird
Dig For Fire
very nice review. i like this album quite a bit more then you, though. i see you like it, just aren't crazy about it. its most likely my personal favorite Pixies album. may not be their best, but i think it stands up well along side their best. i mean if you look at their studio output on a whole people always talk about Surfer and Doolittle. But what else is left, really? C'mon Pilgrim, which is fine, but the only other major releases are this album and Trompe. neither of which get a fair shake. i like the lushness of this album, the seamless blend of the coarse and the layered smooth. Blown Away, Ana, The HAppening, Hang Wire, Down To The Well, all excellent among the others, IMO. i listened to this for a straight month when i first heard it. as in thats all i listened to. rare thing. i love this album.This Message Edited On 10.22.06
I don't know if the Pixies ever got as big as you said they did (didn't Doolittle have only like, one minor hit?) but good review all the same. This album has some good songs, but the rest is pretty average.
How come there are so many good songs about girls named Allison?
the pixies never got real big in the States. 250,000 copies sold of Trompe was their peak, I believe. Not bad, but consider how big shi.t like Bon Jovi and Whitesnake were at the same time the Pixies couldn't even get arrested. Pixies make 4 great albums and sell less then 1 million copies combined while one crappy album by some hair turd band sells millions. bleh. They did extremely well in certain European countries, though...
NP: Velouria....even I adore 'YA!This Message Edited On 10.22.06
I still haven't got this and don't think that I will anytime soon. I'm a big fan of the Pixies but I can't imagine them playing surf styled music, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. "Velouria" is the only track that I've heard and it's a decent tune yet I'd have to give this a ton of time to grow on me.
Zebra if you haven't heard it its not much deifferent then what had come before. I mean its The Pixies. Its not a deparure, really. I hear one surf infused song here, thats it. I never think "Beach Boys" when listening to it....
I really like the album, Cecilia Ann is a great guitar track and some of the quieter, mellower stuff like Ana and Havalina is superb. And Velouria is one of my Pixies favourites, while Hang Wire is very good also. Its inferior to Doolittle and Surfer Rosa (well, it would be almost impossible to be an improvement) but still a great album.