I was informally introduced to the Pixies via David Fincher’s 1999 movie adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s satire of toxic masculinity Fight Club. The movie ends with our unnamed protagonist, bullet wound through his cheek, hand-in-hand with the object of his affection, watching several buildings collapse demolition-style. The bass-snare pattern intro of the Pixies song “Where is My Mind?” plays over the scene as our unnamed protagonist looks at his lover and says “you met me at a very strange time in my life.” Joey Santiago’s trebly three-note guitar riff wails in the background as the movie begins to roll credits. It’s kitschy. It’s odd. It’s somewhat profound. Most importantly it’s iconic. There aren’t many other songs that could have captured the mood of that scene. It was perfect. “Where is My Mind?” is off the Pixies first full length album Surfer Rosa, which turns 30 years old this month and can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.
The Pixies have been icons on the college radio circuit since their debut in the late 80s. Surfer Rosa is one of those rare albums that manages to be as unique as it is popular. While many would look to their follow-up Doolitle as the definitive Pixies album, Surfer Rosa is just as iconic. It is a weird album and unlike anything that was being released towards the end of the new wave 80s. Producer Steve Albini managed to coerce a sound that is both raw and unafraid of how unpolished it sounds. This sound would later inspire Kurt Cobain to enlist Albini to recreate the rawness with Nirvana’s final album In Utero.
For an album that boasts a haunting energy, the most famous song on the album (not to mention most famous song in the Pixies discography) is a discordant lullaby of agnostic overtones. “Where is My Mind” has become a staple in commercials as of lately. Any new product that is looking for a hip, new way to showcase innovation uses some version of the song usually accompanied by some slow motion visuals. It’s been used so often, you’d think it’d be cliché by now, but it’s not. The use of the song is still so effective.
The song itself is as dreamy as you can make a song without overkill pedal effects or a full on orchestra. Bassist Kim Deal providers a background vocal that in itself is so beautiful that it’s become a standard sample in itself. Vocalist Black Francis’ voice has a sense of wonderment and confusion that is so relatable, its easy to get lost in his acoustic strumming. Drummer David Lovering keeps it simple with a steady line to match Deal’s chubby reverby bass. Santiago’s guitar brings it all home with a blaring tone that is so simultaneously gritty and fitting with the rest of the pieces. The song is a masterpiece of a garage band symphony and 30 years later it still conveys the same emotions.
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