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Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

October 14, 2015

logoawesome autumn art by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

Autumn Colours Artist #1: Culture Club

Autumn Colours Artist #2: Pixies

[Album 429/1001]

The reasons for listening to this album right here, right now are threefold:

  1. The closer, Brick is Red, helped Surfer Rosa pass my (tough but fair) Autumn Colour requirement test.
  2. Ian’s recent, reader-friendly Surfer Rosa review
  3. A friend’s recent lukewarm, in-person review of Pet Sounds


Lukewarm?  Pet Sounds?  I know!220px-SurferRosa

But my friend is in fine company.

I recall when sir 1537 had similar less-than-unabashed-praise for the record, he made an astute observation:

“a lot of our reaction to music is about when and where, rather than the what”

Considering the when & where that I immersed in Pet Sounds (while wrapping up University), I think that’s why it’s so special for me.

Considering the when & where that I immersed in Surfer Rosa (this week, while working as a grown-up), I see why not everyone lives for Pet Sounds!


Because I didn’t fall in love with it at age 17 or 21, Surfer Rosa is likely destined to be a classic second-tier record in my books.

I’ve never subscribed to the “if you’re not first, you’re last” school of thought so I don’t consider second-tier as a slight.

In fact, Pixies/Surfer Rosa may end up with the silver in many categories.

I might compare them to Sonic Youth and Pavement. In such a comparison, the podium would look like this:


Compared to the other Pixies albums I’ve heard:


Compared to other songs containing the sequence of words, “I’m amazed”:



Can Surfer Rosa provide evidence that the 80s had plenty to offer? Can it ever.

Is it better than Pet Sounds? Well, that depends.

When & where did you hear it?


From → 1980s

  1. jprobichaud permalink

    I listened to this record so long ago and so many times, I couldn’t even tell you. This is a great, great record. Forget for a minute Steve Albini’s iconic production work here and you’ve still got a bunch of classic tunes. Gigantic, Cactus, Where is my mind?!!! I just saw the Pixies for the second time last month at TURF and Where is my mind closed the festival. It was brilliant! Having said all that, I get the time and place thing. Pavement, for me, is a band I could never get into because I didn’t at the time.

    • A band I would like to see live, you’ve now done it twice, nice!
      I loved treble charger in early high school, and I remember hearing one of the singers being interviewed and he talked about listening to a lot of Pavement before recording the album. So I checked them out, and the rest was history!
      My introduction to Pixies? A weezer cover of Velouria – I had the whole tribute album, liked the songs but never explored too much further before this project.
      Albini’s a fine producer, certainly liked his work here & with PJ Harvey and Nirvana!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Ah yes, Treble Charger. I noticed you had “red” heading up your list of top 5 “red” songs. Great choice, that one.

        I remember seeing a documentary on the Pixies and seeing the quote by Cobain that “Smells like teen spirit” was basically his attempt at writing a Pixies song and it really hit home how influential they were.

        Have you heard David Bowie’s cover of “Cactus”?

      • I have not heard the cover – but now that I know it exists, I will be hearing it today!
        I wouldn’t be surprised if I become a bigger fan of Pixies later on too, with these influential groups for me sometimes a switch goes later on.
        I loved the groups Joy Division and New York Dolls influenced but didn’t get their appeal as the influencers until more recently!

  2. I’ve probably heard this album but can’t say for certain.
    What can I say for certain? I like your podiums. 🙂

  3. I don’t know when or where I first heard it, but I love it. Love love love.

    We saw the reunited Pixies in Saskatoon. There’s something about being there when they did Where Is My Mind that just… oh man that was a great show, especially since it wasn’t even for sure they were gonna stay reunited long enough for us to see them and our show was third on the tour!

    Also: You are becoming the Chart Master. We bow to you superior abilities.

    • Haha, chart master, that would look sharp on a business card! It sounds like this is a group I have to see live, if they can keep a reunion intact!

  4. I can’t remember when or where I first heard this one, but I remember listening to the Pixies a whole lot during the summer of ’97. That said, this and Doolittle are the only albums I bother with these days. I love this one loads. A really brilliant, album filled with songs that really tick all the boxes – fuzzy, visceral and melodic.

    Great use of graphics again, Geoff.

    • Speaking of graphics, that’s a great visual of a checklist – things to look for in a great album. I may have to borrow that on a future review J, thanks. Hope the wee one’s letting you guys get a bit of sleep these days!

      • Borrow away, sir! The wee fella’s settling in. I like to think playing him all my favourite music helps 😉

      • It certainly can’t hurt!

  5. Nice. Neat. Will look forward to further explorations of this timeless theme.
    I don’t rate Pet Sounds either.

    • My thanks Bruce!
      I despised the earlier Beach Boys ‘fun fun fun, sun sun sun, dance dance dance’ stuff so I think my appreciation of Pet Sounds has the “born again” fan component to go along with hearing it at a pivotal stage in life!

      • PS. There is a nice ‘2 on 1’ cd of ‘Friends’ and ’20 20′ that is worthwhile, I reckon.

  6. I’ll have to do some digging around here, but I think I still have the Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa as separate CDs here, somewhere… Don’t quote me, my memory might be shoddy.

    • I shant quote you, not to worry!

      • Good thing! I just checked the shelves in the man cave, and I have Surfer Rosa by itself, as well as Surfer Rosa & Come On Pilgrim together on a CD. I really seem to remember a copy of Come On Pilgrim here too, but I don’t know what happened to it! Alas.

  7. I almost missed the Pixies post! One of my brothers discovered the Pixies when he was in high school in the early 1990s and went through a rather obsessive phase… they were a band you either assumed everyone knew about or assumed nobody was cool enough to know about.

    And yes, your charts are lovely:)

    • It feels like a group that few people merely like – those who like them, love them!
      And my thanks for the chart compliments 😀

  8. Thank you for the big shout-out, it almost makes me seem wise and all-knowing!

    However, you couldn’t be more wrong about this LP if you tried! You are so wrong that this post could single-handedly, get you elected as the president of Wrongdonia!

    • *breaking news* The Wrongdonia leadership election is quickly becoming a neck-and-neck race after reports surfaced about 1537’s less than flattering Pet Sounds review 😀

      • That’s okay man, you have it. I am after all, life-president of Wrongsylvania.

  9. Big Surfer Rosa fan here. First listen to it all the way through? Early to mid-00’s I think. So I would have been late teens/early 20s.

    Obscure Question: The other day I kept listening to the very start of ‘Broken Face’ over and over again to determine if there was any kind of studio trickery used to make Frank Black’s voice go so high on the first “I gotta broken fa-EE” … And even though Steve Albini is generally not a fan of messing around with effects etc. I’m convinced that the tape was sped-up or something similar for that moment. What do you reckon?

    • I reckon there’s something funny about that fa-EE! I wonder if it might have been a happy accident, like the tape had to be spliced back together and ended up having this neat EE effect as opposed to the CE of face, accidentally speeding it up in the process too!

  10. And yeah, age and context always plays a big part with stuff like this. When I worked as a weddings/ parties/anything DJ the boss told us … “If you’re not sure what will get the party going, think about what songs would have been big when you’re party-goers were 16. It will work every time.” … That’d be 2000 for me, so the theory is pretty solid – my fave musical eras are definitely mid-90s to mid-00s.

    • Your boss was wise Andy! That’s funny, I was at a wedding last month, and that math was exactly right. Entirely dance songs from around the year 2000 but it worked, the floor was always full!

  11. I heard Surfer Rosa back in high school when I was studying for the last year exams. I didn’t have much time to listen to music and was looking for something short to relax to between studying. I couldn’t fill my head with Bob Dylan lyrics or something. Didn’t have the patience for the likes of prog rock. The Pixies were perfect, like a shot of adrenaline every single time. I think this is their best record.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. Sonic Youth – Dirty (1992) | 1001albumsin10years

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