Pixies Reviews: Surfer Rosa
Come On Pilgrim|
Trompe Le Monde|
PIXIES QUOTE The Fall (a mangled snatch of 'Stephen Song' in 'I'm Amazed'),
so we can: "They pass my home at night/oh they are NOTALRIGHT/they are ten
times my age/and one-tenth my height" (CityHobgoblins').
Pixies aren't benign. They are NOT ALRIGHT. They sport no friendly 'The'
(like Swans, or more pertinently, 'Elves', another terror-struck-little
Fall-song), and they make sounding like someone else into an ugly dream
that, come morning, you aren't sure you want to remember.
Who do they sound like? 'Gigantic' sounds like Rickie Lee Jones guesting
with Pere Ubu to me. They writhe through The Band and Crazy Horse and
(especially) The Fall as if they can hear some kind of history which links
them all. They do more than sound like people who went before them - they
force the past to sound like them. 'Surfer Rosa' doesn't have the brazen
Latin-metal invention of their 'Come On Pilgrim' mini-LP from last year
- but I can't really remember when I last heard a music with this degree
of lazy evil injected into it. Or a music that seemed to pin down things we
wouldn't have heard ourselves, to map out ideas in the air and sing them
into solid form. With studio backchat and chopped up fragments of songs,
they build the same kind of politico-critical semi-conscious assault on
their surroundings as more overtly nasty Stateside bands Pussy Galore and
the Butthole Surfers.
That's what the new Latin kick's all about, the nueva onda, as reinvented
by Pixie-songwriters Black Francis and Mrs John Murphy. The Wonderful
& Frightening World of Pixies ends up forcing Anglos to put their
ownworld-view through agonizing reappraisal.
So is it ever going to be cool to put (half) naked women on the cover of
an LP, however untamely Hispanic they look? It's a matter of the twist inside
of who's the real victim.
Pixies have put a viciously eccentric but very subtle curve into the rock
they play and replay - if they're enticing a few folks in with a promise
of cheap old-style rockist titillation, it's because they want to cheat and
humiliate them publicly - to smack them in the face for their submission to sleaze.
Rock America has given up on Like-Me-Like-Me populism, and some of us are
beginning to love it as a result. As they say themselves: Oh my golly!
Oh my golly! Rosa, oh oh ohh Rosa! Huh! Huh! Rosa, oh oh ohh Rosa! Huh! Huh!
It doesn't have the brazen Latin-metal invention of their 'Come On Pilgrim' mini-LP from last year, but I can't
really remember when I last heard a music with this degree of lazy evil injected into it. A music that forces
Anglos to put their world-view through agonising reappraisal.
Like Big Black (whose former
Front man Steve Albini produced
this album) the Boston-based
Pixies belong to the Lost Souls
department of modern American
independent rock. In common with
many other of the current anti-
commercial persuasion, they boast
spikey guitars (both biting and
fuzzed), a thumping rhythm section
and whining, anguished vocals of
tantrum-like aggression. But what
sets the Pixies apart are their
sudden bursts of memorable pure
pop melody and an intuitive
understanding of song dynamics
that makes for positive enjoyment.
The 13 tracks have short,
uncomfortable titles but lyrics that
go beyond the usual black nihilism
into personal enigma ("Bloody
your bands on a cactus tree/Wipe
them on your dress and send it to
me" - from Cactus) and, I'd
swear, a sense of fun. Not gelling
their act together is almost certainly
part of the whole point of Pixies, but
if they're not careful they could
have a bright future in front of them.
(The CD version includes their
previous Come On Pilgrim mini-
Last Updated 06-03-97