In this new series for One Quart Magazine, Karstein Volle and Nick Triani visualize and discuss moments on records that give an extra meaning and experience; records so firmly embedded we don't need to listen to them anymore. In this first dispatch, Black Francis' off-mic exclamation means so much more.
#1 Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988)
Perfect breasts adorn the cover. Tales of sinister liaisons. Not forgetting the violence, mutilation, superheroes called Tony, Spanish, sanity, and sexual tensions that make up the narrative of unease Surfer Rosa still offers. It’s perhaps the off-mic Black Francis “You fucking die!“ exclamation that ultimately defines not only the grooves of Surfer Rosa, but in proximity, Pixies’ whole career. “You fucking die” is almost everyday in its savagery-yet-normalcy, but in this ‘humorous’ exchange – where we only hear one side of the conversation – the uncomfortableness of not knowing each other leads to misunderstandings and undercurrent.
This could have been the first time we ever heard that Steve Albini drum sound and certainly the loud/quiet dynamic that became a signature of grunge. Yes, the vocals were ‘knocked off’ as an afterthought for an unsuspecting Albini; low in the mix, they add to the general air of mystery and horror. It’s easy to summarize that Surfer Rosa has lasted beyond the vagaries of grunge and has supplied a future-uber-lean-template for ‘alternative’ rock, something that hasn’t been explored further.
Listen carefully, this is a lot of fun.