Surfer Rosa is the first full-length album by Pixies, released in 1988, generally considered one of the all-time best (alternative) rock albums with fans such as Kurt Cobain, PJ Harvey and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. It was their second release with 4AD Records, the first being their EP Come On Pigrim. Despite being an American band, it was also their first release to have U.S. distribution, being issued in America by fellow indie label Rough Trade. The first CD edition on both sides of the Atlantic included Come On Pilgrim. Rough Trade also issued Come On Pilgrim on vinyl and cassette. After the collapse of Rough Trade in the early '90s, their American distributor at the time, Elektra Records, released both Surfer Rosa and Come On Pilgrim individually, the band having moved there for American distribution with Doolittle. U.S. releases have remained separate even after 4AD acquired the American rights to the band's 1987-1991 catalog. The album was eventually certified gold (sales of over 500,000 copies) by the RIAA in 2005.
The album is best known for the underground hits "Gigantic" and "Where Is My Mind?". The album was a hit on College Radio, leading to the band's American deal with Elektra.
- "Bone Machine" (3:02)
- "Break My Body" (2:05)
- "Something Against You" (1:47)
- "Broken Face" (1:30)
- "Gigantic" (3:55)
- "River Euphrates" (2:33)
- "Where Is My Mind?" (3:53)
- "Cactus" (2:16)
- "Tony's Theme" (1:52)
- "Oh My Golly!" (1:48)
- "You Fucking Die!" (0:45)note
- "Vamos" (4:18)
- "I'm Amazed" (1:42)
- "Brick Is Red" (2:00)
And you'll ask yourself (while reading these tropes): "Where is my mind?"
- Album Title Drop: "Oh My Golly"Besando chichando con surfer rosaOh my golly!
- As the Good Book Says...: "River Euphrates". The Euphrates is a river in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq), made famous by the Bible.
- Bilingual Bonus: "Oh My Golly" and "Vamos" have Gratuitous Spanish.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: "Gigantic", about a well-endowed black man.
- Body Horror:
Your bones got a little machine
- "Bone Machine"
I got no lips, I got no tongue
- "Broken Face".
Whatever I say is only spit
I got no lips, I got no tongue
I got a broken face
Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh!
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: They're very good at this.
- "Bone Machine" has the line "He bought me a soda, and he bought me a soda, and he bought me a soda and tried to molest me in the parking lot, yep, yep, yep, yep!" (imagine those "yep!"s being barked out in the most disturbingly perky tone possible) before the second chorus.
- "Cactus" is about a guy in prison desperately writing to his girlfriend, who quickly becomes paranoid that "the letter in your writing doesn't mean you're not dead". Initially, he just wants her to write letters back. By the end of the song, he's asking her to cut her hands on a cactus, wipe the blood on her dress and send it to him.
- Broken Record:I got a broken face. I got a broken faceTO-NY! TO-NY! TO-NY!
- Careful with That Axe: Francis Black's screaming during "Something Against You", "River Euphrates" and "Tony's Theme".
- Compilation Rerelease: The first CD issues included their EP Come On Pilgrim. After the album's U.S. distributor, Rough Trade, went under, Elektra Records released them separately, which carried over to 4AD's later U.S. reissues. For the 30th anniversary of the album's release, 4AD released Come On Pilgrim...It's Surfer Rosa, a three-disc set containing both releases plus a live show recorded for radio.
- Continuity Nod: "Bone Machine" informs us that "your bones got a little machine" and "Break My Body" also sings about bones.
- Creepy Gym Coach: "I'm Amazed" opens with studio chatter of Kim Deal recounting a story from her high school about rumors a teacher was "into field hockey players."
- Darker and Edgier: "Break My Body" and "Broken Face" deal with themes of incest and mutilation.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover was shot in black-and-white.
- Design Student's Orgasm: An elegant photograph showing a beautiful woman posing against a wall displaying a crucifix, torn poster and all of this shot in black-and-white.
- Electronic Speech Impediment:
I got a broken face (tape speeds up and back) I got a broken face
- "Broken Face"
Oooooo.. Stop! I— (tape cut off).
- "Where Is My Mind"
- Epic Instrumental Opener: The first 1:13 of "Brick Is Red" are instrumental. That might not seem like all that long by the standards of this trope, but the song itself only runs for 2:02.
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Oh My Golly!" and "Vamos" have Spanish lyrics at points.
- Hot for Student: "I'm Amazed" opens with a snippet of Studio Chatter where Kim Deal mentions a teacher at her school who was rumored to be "into field hockey players."
- In the Style of: Songs like "Oh My Golly" and "Vamos" were influenced by Spanish flamenco music.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Where Is My Mind?" ends with a final haunting moan.
- Love Letter: "Cactus" is a subversion. It's sung from the perspective of a prison inmate who requests his girlfriend to smear her dress with blood and mail it to him.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Gigantic" is a jolly, peppy song about a woman taking voyeuristic delight at watching a black man's big penis.
- Really, most of the songs. See Pedophile Priest below.
- Ms. Fanservice: The gracious woman posing as a bare-breasted flamenco dancer on the album cover.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: According to some interpretations, "Break My Body".
- Obsession Song: "Cactus"Sitting here wishing on a cement floorJust wishing that I had just something you woreI put it on when I grow lonelyWill you take off your dress and send it to me?
- One-Man Song: "Tony's Theme".
- One-Word Title: "Gigantic", "Cactus" and "Vamos".
- Pedophile Priest: "Bone Machine"I was talking to preachy-preach about kissy-kiss,
He bought me a soda
He bought me a soda
He bought me a soda and he tried to molest me in the parking lot. Yep yep yep yep yep!
- Record Producer: Steve Albini.
- Spelling Song: "Cactus", in which the band spells out their group name between the second verse and chorus.
- Spoken Word in Music: "I'm Amazed", where Kim Deal recounts a story in which one of her former teachers who was "into field hockey players" was discreetly fired. Francis finishes Deal's sentences, joking that her response to hearing of the teacher's activities was to try and join the team.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Kim Deal in "Gigantic".
- Studio Chatter: "Oh My Golly!" starts off with Steve Albini: Francis' "You fuckin' DIE, I said!" between "Oh My Golly!" and "Vamos". Deal's recounting of a teacher who was rumoured to be "into field hockey players" at the start of "I'm Amazed". Both of these were a Throw It In by Albini, who later indicated ambivalence about having done this: "It's on their record forever, so I think now they are obliged to say that they're OK with it, but I honestly don't know that that idea would've ever come up if I hadn't done it."
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Vamos" gives us this stanza:They'll come and playTheir friends will sayYour daddy's richYour mama's a pretty thing
- This Is a Song: "Tony's Theme":This is a song about a superhero named Tony! It's called "Tony's Theme!" *rocking ensues*
- Title-Only Chorus: "Where Is My Mind".
- Three Chords and the Truth: Their trademark.
- Under the Sea: "Where Is My Mind?" about scuba diving.
- Where da White Women At?: The subject of "Gigantic" is an interracial couple. The lyrics were inspired by a movie with this subject named Crimes Of The Heart.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Most of the lyrics.