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Music Review: Pixies – Surfer Rosa

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A few weeks ago, I took a look at Goo by Sonic Youth. Continuing in the vein of eighties and early nineties alternative before the grunge explosion, I picked up Surfer Rosa by the Pixies.

I was surprised by what I heard. Mind you, I was a Pixies virgin before last week, unless you count hearing "Where Is My Mind?" of Fight Club. So, it was a bit of a shock to hear such crazy music. I guess the semi-nude flamenco dancer on the cover should have given away its audacity. In a way, the cover reflects Surfer Rosa's often highly sexual lyrics.

After the shock settled and I gave the album a few more spins, I’ve now come to adore it. Needless to say, music like this doesn't exist elsewhere, at least in my music world.

“Bone Machine” starts the album strong. From the little research I did, the song is about the lead singer Black Francis’ cheating girlfriend, saying she is a “bone machine.” I imagine this means she goes from one boner to the next with machine-like efficiency, a great quality for any potential mate. The festivity of the music, coupled with the sheer joy expressed in the lyrics, is highly ironic and humorous.

“Break My Body” and “Something Against You,” tracks two and three respectively, are both solid. I especially love the intro of the latter which is just so much fun. The lyrics are hard to make out and could mean anything, but to me this adds, not detracts, to the song's distorted atmosphere.

Track five, “Gigantic,” is one of the Pixies more well-known tracks. Kim Deal seems to be singing about… well… maybe you should listen to the song to find out! Here's a hint: it seems to be about an alleged "special endowment" black men possess. Lyrics aside, it is well-crafted indie pop song.

Track seven, “Where Is My Mind?”, is perhaps the Pixies most famous song, for good reason – it’s very catchy, and you can actually make out the lyrics somewhat, even if they don’t make much sense.

Generally speaking about the Pixies and Surfer Rosa, I’m sure their lyrics actually mean something, but they are quite cryptic and I haven’t really listened to the album enough to have a sense of possible meanings. Although "Where Is My Mind" is not my personal favorite on the album (that award would have to go to “Vamos”), it is certainly up there with my all-time favorite indie anthems.

Before I close, I’d like to mention “Vamos.” I love this song! It is so out there and is sung partly in Spanish, which is kind of cool, because I’m a Spanish minor. The driving drumbeat is mingled with the occasional distortion ridden guitar: untamed and seemingly playing whatever notes it fancies. I've read that some of the band members, or maybe just one, spent some time in Puerto Rico.

All the tracks on Surfer Rosa are worthy of mentions – the ones I highlighted are merely my personal favorites on just a few listens. I’m sure with more reps, I’ll find even more to love on this album.

Surfer Rosa reminds me of how untame and wild alternative was before it became a corporate cash cow. As such, anyone who wants a feel for alternative pre-grunge would do well to pick up this album. I also recommend Surfer Rosa to Nirvana fans who haven’t yet discovered that they owe a lot of their style to the Pixies, as mentioned by the band numerous times.

Surfer Rosa is a great album to listen to you if you're looking for something fast and fun. Anyone wanting to hear something that has effected music greatly because of its creativity should pick up Surfer Rosa.

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