Pixies – Surfer Rosa 30 Years Later

In 1988, Pixies were just an opening act to the more compelling Alternative Rock bands of the era, particularly The Jesus & Mary Chain (“Just like Honey”). Eventually, in the ’90s, when the now established genre started to emit its brilliant, fiery splinters of melodic noise into the Rock mainstream, Pixies became one of the frontline purveyors – along with Sonic Youth (“Kool Thing”), Nirvana (“Come as You Are”), Dinosaur Jr. (“Start Choppin’”), Radiohead (“Stop Whispering”), Weezer (“My Name Is Jonas”), and Bush (“Everything Zen”).

Formed in 1986, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, by Black Francis (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), Kim Deal (bass, backing vocals), and David Lovering (drums), Pixies have released six studio albums – from 1988’s Surfer Rosa to 2016’s Head Carrier. Since the debut has turned 30, to pay tribute to Pixies’ legacy and recognize its place in the annals of Alternative Rock, by revisiting it is simply appropriate.

Released on March 21, 1988, through 4AD Records, Surfer Rosa became one of the sonic templates of many bands whose music is attributed to ’90s Alternative Rock – Surf/Psychedelic-inspired melodic and noisy guitars, trademark quiet-loud dynamic, whisper-to-a-scream vocal styling, heavy basslines, and distinctive alternating snare-bass drum pattern.

Surfer Rosa opened with the self-assured stomp, punch, slash, rant, and swagger of “Bone Machine,” which also introduced, right there and then, the now much-loved and much-missed male-female vocal interplay of Francis and Deal. The scathing, slicing, and melodic guitars then became more pronounced as “Break My Body” played next. The ensuing “Something Against You” then switched the gear several notches higher, faster, and more intense – frenetic, chaotic, metallic – which then resulted in “Broken Face!”

The highlight of Surfer Rosa came in the form of the infectious and head-bobbing Deal breaker “Gigantic.” Still in the same pogo-inciting predisposition, “River Euphrates” further exhibited the sweet-obnoxious, loud-quiet, and serious-goofy trademark dynamics of Pixies’ music. Another fan favorite and carrier single, “Where Is My Mind?” was a perfect juxtaposition of grace and bedlam, harmony and cacophony, and control and freedom.

“Cactus” and “Tony’s Theme” further emphasized the distinctive sonic style of Pixies – a little Rock-n-Roll, a tad Grunge, a bit Punk, with Pop sensibilities. With “Oh My Golly!,” Pixies then unleashed their Hardcore and Metal tendencies – ominous, aggressive, imposing, yet still catchy and sexy. The Spanish-word “Vamos” was playful and pesky as it could be, coming across as the equally animated and feisty Violent Femmes (“Add It Up”).

After the Hardcore Punk assault of “I’m Amazed,” Francis, Santiago, Deal, and Lovering finished off their first full-length with the Surf Punk-inspired, almost instrumental “Brick Is Red,” which showed why eventual Alternative Rock luminaries such as Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins (“Bullet with Butterfly Wings”), PJ Harvey (“Down by the Water”), and the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (“Smells like Teen Spirit”) had been enamored with the music of Pixies and were never in denial of their using the band’s style as a template for that of their own.

To this day, Pixies and its music remain influential to many new bands operating within the Indie Rock scene. After all, Pixies have also been back from a long hiatus, releasing its latest album two years ago. In the meantime though, rediscover and relive the music of the seminal band by surfing back to where it all started 30 years ago – Surfer Rosa. Do not just play it. Play it loud!

Purchase Surfer Rosa:

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ALfie vera mellaAuthor posts

Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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