Bossanova | Pixies | 1990 | 4AD | #356
Running through in ascending order means I must first listen to the least critically-acclaimed of the three Pixies albums that appear on NME’s list. If you were trying to get your mate into a new band you certainly wouldn’t show off their worst material first and expect them to become instant fans. I like this way of going about it though; it’s unconventional, and means I have Pixies’ “better” stuff (according to NME, at least) to look forward to later in the year.
“Cecilia Ann” starts the album off with instrumental surf-rock, then it’s straight into a dirty, punk-inspired “Rock Music” until finally the true style of the album unfolds for the remaining tracks, which never deviate too far from what feels like a combination of both of those genres. The heavy use of reverb on the vocals and rhythm guitar combined with the occasional jangly, surf-rock-inspired lead riffs (and possibly a subliminal effect of the album cover) gives the album a strange, otherworldly feel to it – yet somehow distinctly early 90s alternative-rock. It’s as if they’ve created an album to sound like a fictional rock band in a 90s sci-fi movie.
The mood shifts from soft and surreal to aggressive and full of attitude, and most of that – I amateurishly concluded – is conducted by variations in singer Black Francis’ vocal styles. The heavy, pulsating bass/drum combo is pretty much persistent throughout and really started to grow on me after several plays through. I went through an initial nausea-inducing breaking-in phase with this album, but eventually – once I got over the desire to take some ibuprofen – I became totally hooked.