13 May 2014

Pixies - Bossanova

Certainly a flourishing period commercially for many alternative rock acts back in the late 1980s, and while I haven't paid too much attention to this act from the East Coast, I do recall an old friend playing this endlessly for 12 months. Another bona fide musical enriched aficionado who sadly I lost touch with quickly. Glad to say I actually didn't mind the album at all, listening to it as an impressionable 16 year old, and rubbing shoulders along with the rest of his collection, like The Cure, Joy Division and Clash brings back some memories, although I suspect that leaving school at the same time may have also played a small part in my feelings of happy days!

The Editor's already written a number of reviews of the Pixies (here's a link to all of them) and it's brought home to me of the importance of this offering, album number three. Even twenty four years ago I understood the general themes that Pixies frontman Black Francis was writing up back then, and listening to Bossanova for the first time in over 20 years has made me realise that it's matured respectfully in those two decades, but without losing its effervescence and enthusiasm. The ideas behind the album consist of surf rock (not surprising, given the Pixies' Californian roots) and of UFOs, possibly harking back to the 1950s 'B' movie era. So, all pointers of a free thinking mind and a free reign of his musical notions, exactly what Mr. Francis wanted from day one.

So, the UFO and unearthly themes. First track, Cecilia Ann is an instrumental with a whiff of Johnny Marr and The Only Ones' Another Girl Another Planet. Very notable opener with a well thought out scene setter with a rhythm of urgency, and it's a rewarding listen. Continuing the notion of the paranormal is Velouria, the Theremin features prominently in it, even at this early stage it's a strong contender for best track, it leaves me with a feeling of post punk goodness, and perhaps echoes of Talking Heads. There's a hint of love in the great beyond, likewise with the following track Allison although it only lasts barely one and one half minutes, however, it's frisky beat feels more stretched out, and yet another memorable track. So far going great guns on my first few listens of it since the early 1990s.

Now, for the songs that really have stuck with me, and they're in quick succession. Is She Weird? brings on a dark tone musically and lyrically, but it just has such an addictive chorus it's uncanny. "Your heart is ripshit" refers to a potentially explosive wave of emotion, as well as the apparent excesses Black Francis' love interest purveys. Now for another favourite track of mine, Ana, and it's a strong bet the Pixies voice and lynchpin has his mind fixed on another potential love interest, a simple fantasy he's penned. Not quite so other worldly, but the gentle guitaring and paintbrush drumming are a perfect illustration of Mr. Francis' storytelling. And I genuinely mean perfect.

Very few songs on this album run any more that three minutes, the longest being All Over The World at over five. At that time, the wave of Madchester and similar genres reigned supreme on the U.K. airwaves and perhaps coincidentally the Pixies were mirror imaging that Stateside. That said however, Joey Santiago takes a brief guitar lead with some pomp and swagger. More Talking Heads/David Byrne vocal influences are found in one of their singles Dig For Fire as well as The Happening. So far, the lyrical pointers have been short, sharp and minimal but here it's a return to the UFO theme, Francis referring to a Nevadan Ranch called Fifty One. It's proof that America understands irony and whit.

Another track that stuck with me over the years is Hang Wire. An eclectic mix of hushed and growly vocals and their most punk-ish here. The high noted riffs are another memorable cornerstone to the album. Not all tracks however are top notch, Stormy Weather for example feels by comparison the most ordinary out of the record and perhaps the weakest link. They are trying to push the boat out just a tad too far with a 'killer chorus' and the remainder is not so unforgettable. That said, not a disaster and then we have the final number in Havalina, again, very minimal lyrically and there's more emphasis in the structure of the track and the choral harmonies are just staggeringly beautiful.

I'm trying to imagine what sort of things was running through the mind of Black Francis when he was writing this unashamed masterpiece of whim and science fiction. I won't deny that the adoptive sons of California have come up with the real deal with their 2014 release Indie Cindy (read the album review here) but in my opinion, overlooking Bossanova would be just mad. Thankfully it wasn't strictly retro back in 1989 when it was launched and hearing it again has made me like it even more. Have a listen, it'll be more than worth a good hour of your precious time I promise you.

9.5 out of ten. Almost perfect....almost.
Best track : Velouria (though Is She Weird and Ana nearly swung it for me)

Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to Bossanova here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can click on this link
Pixies Official Website on this link here
They have a Facebook page regularly updated on this link here

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