Ever since I can remember music has always been my passion and more than likely always will be. I would like to think that I will still go along and see live music for quite a few years to come and still have that insatiable urge to hear something "new." I've never been that sure where the sometimes near obsessional interest in music came from as either my mother or father were that into music - unless you include Lena Martell or Sydney Devine, both of which I remember being subjected to regularly when growing up.
Looking back it now seems fairly obvious that I would have ended up at some point working in something to do with music - and so it transpired that my first job would be working for a well known "music specialist" where I spent many a happy year. At 18 years old I thought I had died and gone to heaven especially when someone told me on my first day that you can "play anything you want as long as there's no swearing in it". At that time most of the stock was vinyl as CD's were just starting to come out. I spent an eternity working out what would be the first record that I would play much to the annoyance of my co-workers who just played any old shite that came to hand and couldn't understand why I was taking so long.
Eventually I went over to the 12" filing area searching until I came to what I was looking for...I still vividly remember hearing that distinctive, melodic baseline leading into....
"And this I know
His teeth as white as snow
What a gas it was to see him
Walk her every day
Into a shady place
With her lips she said"
...and thinking I could get used to this - getting paid to listen to your favourite records all day. It was a bit like that in the early days but even record stores had to change and adapt to the simple fact that they needed to make money to survive
What did not change, however, was my love of the purveyors of the ever wonderful "Gigantic".
Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering and Kim Deal released 5 albums between 1987 and 1991 containing some of the best and most influential music that has been recorded by anyone. Although I had been a big fan of bands like The Jam, The Specials and Madness I was too young to see the live in their prime. The Pixies arrived at just the right time for me and along with The Mary Chain and New Order they very quickly became "my band".
I first saw The Pixies live round about the time of Surfer Rosa at the QMU and was completely blown away by them and have remained a huge fan ever since. Paramount to the greatness of Surfer Rosa is Kim Deal, whose thick basslines propel each song perfectly, and hold their own well against the thunderous drumming and crashing walls of guitars. Kim's vocals are of note as well, serving as the perfect foil to the psychotic howls of Black Francis. Mostly she serves as a background vocalist, but she contributes some killer lead vocals as well, such as on "Gigantic" or the infectious "River Euphrates".
Surfer Rosa is a classic and is one those great albums you don't ever consider skipping a track on. The utter lack of pretension and the gleeful performances make "Surfer Rosa" a joy to listen to. It has everything - dark humour at its darkest, playful melodies, madcap shrieked vocals that sound like nothing from this world, some great Santiago guitar playing and a great unpredictability within the songs. Steve Albini's production is nothing short of superb, he captured them at there rawest and the album is a strong contender for the best album of the 80's.
Tracks 5-7 are the core of the album - the Kim Deal penned Gigantic is catchy, upbeat and somewhat anthemic considering the dark undercurrent of the lyrics. The quiet verse, heavy chorus structure would be a huge influence on Nirvana's songwriting. River Euphrates is frenetic, intense and hard-hitting with the album's catchiest melody. Where is My Mind? is the pinnacle of this album. It's beautiful, melodic, catchy and haunting. A classic by any definition.
Surfer Rosa, while not as musically intricate or well-constructed as later releases, leaps out of the speakers with a certain urgency and excited energy that the Pixies would never match. Everything sounds so uncontrolled and immediate, as if it came so naturally.
At the time of it's original release the sound that The Pixies gave us was something fresh and new. 23 years later Surfer Rosa is still an exciting and quite addictive rush of adrenaline matched by few other recordings.
Often imitated, but never bettered...
Pixies - River Euphrates
Pixies - Where Is My Mind