Monday, August 11, 2014
A Big Big Love...
I started working in record stores back in '88 in Glasgow, at a time when every town across the UK had a fair smattering of chain stores (where I worked) and indie stores. Changed days nowadays, especially outside of the main cities. Anyway, when I first started it was mostly vinyl that was sold and mostly vinyl that we played in the shop. I still recall on my first day one of the managers telling me to put something on when the previous album had finished and after much thought I opted for the 12" of "Gigantic". Not really what they were expecting to hear at the tail end of November when the store was full of Christmas shoppers waiting to buy "Kylie" or "Now 13". I don't recall most of the music I played in record stores over the years but that has always stuck with me and remains to this day one of my favourite songs.
As is the album that it appears on, which is the second album in my Top 10 rundown. To this day I cannot think of any other album that sounds like "Surfer Rosa". Innovative, experimental and not a little unnerving, from the opening drums on "Bone Machine" through to the terrific guitar playing on "Brick Is Red" there is not a dull moment. Raw, abrasive and strangely melodic with great songwriting throughout. Although "Doolittle" is a more accessible album, for me, "Surfer Rosa" is the definitive sound of The Pixies - Stevie Albini's glorious production, Black Francis' stunning, unholy screech, the sheer force of that opening quartet of songs leading into the classic that is "Gigantic", Kim Deal's melody driven bass lines and sweet as honey backing vocals, the ferocious drumming of Dave Lovering and the caustic, unique guitar playing of Joey Santiago. This album is where all the individual elements fused together.
I still get the same sense of excitement listening to "Surfer Rosa" as I did back in '89, and in an age of overproduction, the freshness and rawness of this album is still thrilling to hear. There is no filler on the album at all, all the tracks just seem to fit together like a jigsaw. I'd be surprised if even the band realised they had written a classic at the time. If you heard some tracks on their own, like the frankly insane "Tony's Theme" it might not make sense but as a whole album it makes perfect sense.
A truly inspirational album that has rarely been off my turntable over the last 25 years, "Surfer Rosa" may not be the easiest album to listen to but is well worth taking the time to get to know and love.