[Review] Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988)

This is mescalina rock. When I hear it my heart leaps and the little iconoclast who pushes the buttons in my brain all day sits back and has a smoke and a snort of something like honeyfied hellfire. But the first time I heard it my head hurt. Took time before the trans-dimensional insanity of it all made sense. It was brilliance blurted out in such a way that it sounded like nonsense. But that didn’t explain away “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic” and “River Euphrates” and suddenly the whole thing, even those pulverized guitar solos from Joey Santiago, made sweet beautiful love to both my ears. I can’t tell you why I stuck with Surfer Rosa long enough to see that or why so many other people did too. It’s a prickly set: luminous harmonies sometimes but mostly skinned knees and boney fists of fury. The whole thing sounds unfinished at first, but years later you can stare at it and see things and swear that it’s a craggy, cranky masterpiece where (no) not one sharp and dangerous object pointing out of it should be smoothed over. I’ve seen makeshift walls with broken bits of glass bottles and metal shards stuck into the cement on top and sometimes when the light hits it right you’d swear there was the soul of an artist in it. Well, the light loves Surfer Rosa too. The Pixies’ first full-lengther is a great alternative yardstick because the band constructed pop music from completely different material: shrieks and spanish and insane feedback. It rolled like a toxic tumbleweed out of Boston and its dark sense of humor left a mark on you afterwards. This is what it felt like when the Heads rolled in a decade earlier, only more turbulent and more beautiful.

Original LP Version
A1. Bone Machine
A2. Break My Body
A3. Something Against You
A4. Broken Face
A5. Gigantic (Mrs. John Murphy)
A6. River Euphrates
B1. Where Is My Mind?
B2. Cactus
B3. Tony’s Theme
B4. Oh My Golly!
B5. Vamos
B6. I’m Amazed
By. Brick Is Red

All songs written by Black Francis unless noted.

The Players
Black Francis (vocals, guitars), David Lovering (drums), Mrs. John Murphy (bass, vocals), Joey Santiago (lead guitars). Produced and engineered by Steve Albini.

The Pictures
Photography by Simon Larbalestier. Sleeve art direction and design by Vaughan Oliver at 23 Envelope.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and expanded compact disc (with Come On Pilgrim) on March 21, 1988 in the US (Rough Trade/4AD, ROUGH US 38C/CD), the UK (4AD, CAD 803/CAD C 803/GAD 803 CD) and Japan (4AD, 30CY-2568).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the US (4AD/Elektra, 61295-2).
  2. Re-issued with Come On Pilgrim on expanded compact disc on June 1, 1994 in Japan (4AD, COCY-78083).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on May 20, 2003 in the US (4AD, GAD 8030 CD), the UK (4AD, 70803) and Israel (4AD, CAD 803 CD).
  4. Re-released on super audio compact disc in 2007 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2032).
  5. Re-issued with Come On Pilgrim on expanded compact disc in 2008 in South Africa (4AD/Just, CDJUST 229).
  6. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2009 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 1-296) with gatefold cover.

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