It’s amazing how often the word “beautiful” crops up in album reviews. Though it makes me feel unclean, I am no exception, so I am determined to not use the B-word to describe this one. That’ll be easy, since if there’s one thing the Pixies aren’t, it’s beautiful. Thrilling, original, daring, wildly unconventional (still), a little unnerving and brilliant they certainly are. This is a band that make “beautiful” seem both unnecessary and overrated. Front-man Frank Black writes near-perfect guitar pop songs and mangles them out of shape with howling vocals, lyrics about religious blood-lust, insanity and sexual deviance and a general air of gleeful menace. Somehow, through sheer humour and enthusiasm, more often than not, it sounds like they’re having a great time when they play, making them a joy to listen to. Their debut ‘Surfer Rosa’ is as raw and ragged as a grazed elbow thanks to Steve Albini’s less-is-more production. Most of the recording time was devoted to Joey Santiago’s guitars which are sharp enough to shave your face on. Kim Deal’s smooth and muddy bass and Dave Lovering’s hollow drum clatters hold them together while Frank Black sings, whispers, shrieks and belts over the top. The songs themselves are some of the best rock songs to come out of the 1980’s. It’s hard to name highlights in an album as consistent as this. ‘Tony’s Theme’ is mutant surf-rock gone superhero theme tune; ‘Oh My Golly!’ is a party inside a hollow tin chest; ‘Cactus’ is like a murderous ‘We Love To Boogie’ for stalkers and confused lament on insanity ‘Where Is My Mind?’ is as emotional as they ever got. Overall, it’s melodic, addictive, atmospheric, fun and unhinged.
In the 80’s everyone within pop music seemed to be using “new technologies”. Those technologies are no longer new and their sound is dated. ‘Surfer Rosa’ uses as little effects/technologies as possible and hasn’t aged at all. These are facts. Aside from that, it’s one of most enjoyable, impressive and gloriously feral debuts ever and you should own it. These are also facts.
Key track: Where Is My Mind?
Listen to this: if you want musical David Lynch.