Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988), 7/10

The blending of clever composition and presentation of narrative with Pixies’ straightforward sound make Surfer Rosa exceptional, resulting in the band’s best effort. Frank Black’s piercing screams complemented by Kim Deal’s accenting pop-sensible vocals prove a uniquely effective match, especially when paired with candid writing methods and a raw, organic sound. The creditworthy opening track “Bone Machine” serves as a great example of this phenomenon working on all levels right at the start, along with the twisted story of “Broken Face” shortly after. Whenever this accompaniment is in play the album soars, yet whenever the sound or style retreats further into simplicity it suffers. Examples of one asset presenting strongly without the other’s presence being “Gigantic” or even “Oh My Golly!”. Despite their simply satisfying individual moments, tracks like these fall flat with time, especially after repeated listens. “Where Is My Mind?” feels relatively out of place just as these tracks do, but its individual strength in writing offsets this feeling quickly. The jagged, sharp, and raw performances cut through the mix of songs creating the most gratifying successes. This assembles an album that exhibits a very focused intensity and surprising breadth despite its brevity. Subtle touches like the buried chanting in “Cactus” make an already successful album even more worth revisitation and repeated turns. Surfer Rosa is a clear best for Pixies despite their continued strength in the following few years. While Bossanova excels for its consistency and Doolittle expands on focused melodic experimentation, their individual tracks are no match for giants such as “Bone Machine”, “Broken Face”, “Where Is My Mind?”, and the greatly consistent second half of the record. This all explains the album’s surviving contemporary influence and its consistent place among the great albums within rock music criticism.