The Pixies - Surfer Rosa
The trouble is that this album just does not rattle my cage. To be honest, a lot of these tracks are just not that good. A couple of the songs are not bad - "Bone Machine" for instance - but most of them have very few qualities which warrant extended or repeated playing. I know this is tantamount to heresy in general where the Pixies have an exalted status almost up there with Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine, but I get the impression that for a lot of people, the Pixies represented a yearning for something which they missed out on because they were too young. In the same way that I missed out on the swinging sixties because I was too young, I can appreciate the yearning. But there is always a problem with hagiography. Like the martyred saint whose tomb is opened for the retrieval of relics, what you find is usually not what you expected.
I have heard this called ‘punk', and while I can see the similarity in terms of the brash enthusiasm, the supreme (if misplaced) confidence and the frankly minimal ability when it comes to playing musical instruments, punk this ain't. By the time Come On Pilgrim was released, punk had been born eleven years before and had died, not at all prematurely, in 1979 when the Damned released Machine-Gun Etiquette. I mean, not only was punk gone but post punk had come and gone as well! Punk wasn't just a musical style, it was an echo of a particular time and a particular place. Just because the Pixies say "fuck" doesn't make them punks. Punk occurred in the UK at the end of the seventies for a reason, and once the condition which had spawned it had passed, punk went the same way.
In all honesty, Doolittle is a far better album, but if you place this compilation and that album together as a continuum, starting with the Come On Pilgrim EP and finishing with Doolittle, what do you find? Not a great deal of change or evolution in the music. And the lyrics? Well, we have all sat down with our friends in the pub and, through a miasmic haze of self-importance brought about by too much beer and too little of the moderating effects of a few similarly aged women on male behaviour, come up with lyrics which would not have embarrassed a Pixies album, though the recollection of which would have probably embarrassed ourselves in the morning.
For me, owning Doolittle would have been enough. Or owning Surfer Rosa. Owning both is superfluous.
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