This was the only Pixies album I bought upon its release, and I really could not have been more excited. I immediately loved it, and continue to do so to this day. The band brought back some of the rougher edges that had been smoothed out on Bossanova, and Black Francis wrote some incredibly strong tunes for this record.
Apparently it's not everyone's favorite, but I could easily make an argument for this being the band's best record. Between this record and Frank Black's first two solo records, you've got the golden era of the man whose real name is Charles Thompson. I could go deep into into my Eric Drew Feldman theory right now (he plays on all three of the records), but I'll spare you that. So let's get to the songs and why they're so great.
"Trompe Le Monde" - This was the only Pixies record that took its title from the name of a song and not a lyric from a song, and they just went ahead and put it right out front. And that's where it should be. A great tune to start off with.
Random: In the break in this song, Black Francis sing/talks: "We went to the store and got something great/ Which samples this song from Washington State." A friend of mine in high school had this weird Radio Shack megaphone that not only amplified your voice, but also played college fight songs. Among them was the one from Washington State, and it played it just like the little blips that come after that lyric in the song. We were convinced that this megaphone is what they were talking about. I still am.
Also: This version of the band playing the song on Letterman remains bizarre and awesome.
"Planet of Sound" - If anyone was concerned about whether the Pixies were getting soft, this should have assuaged those fears. What a badass tune. "This ain't no rock & roll town/ This ain't no fuckin' around." Exactly.
"Alec Eiffel" - What an incredible melody (as usual), and Kim Deal really makes it work on this one. One of the singles from this record, and it's definitely one of the more accessible tunes.
"The Sand Punk" - This track contains one of my favorite Pixies lyrics ever: "And evolving from the sea/ Would not be too much time for me/ To walk beside you in the sun." It really doesn't get much better than that. Love this song.
"Head On" - The second of the only two covers that made their way onto proper Pixies albums. It's a fine song, but I prefer their original material.
"U-Mass" - Somewhere along the line this became a Pixies head-bangin' classic, and I'm fairly certain it's more tongue-in-cheek than people realize. Again: great lyrics.
"Palace of the Brine" - One of two minute-and-a-half ass-kickers on this record. This song is untouchable.
"Letter to Memphis" - I always think of this one and "Palace of the Brine" as a one-two combo that should not be separated, because the break between the two songs in short and seamless and they really work well as a pair. Not sure if this is supposed to be a love song in the traditional sense, but it sure works as one.
"Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons" - Leave it to Black Francis to write a frighteningly beautiful song about a bird dreaming that he flies to Mars. These lyrics are insanely good, and the buildup in this song is flawless.
"Space (I Believe In)" - One of the longer songs on the record, and though I certainly like it, it's not one of my favorites. The end is great, though.
"Subbacultcha" - I never had any idea that this was one of the earliest tunes that Black Francis wrote for the band, and I was a bit surprised to find out that it was. It fits in fine with the rest of the songs here, though it remains one of their weirder tunes, which is saying something.
"Distance Equals Rate Times Time" - I always forget the name of this song because "D equals R times T" is mentioned in "Space (I Believe In)" and it mixes me up. This is the other minute-and-a-half ass-kicker on this record and it will knock you over.
"Lovely Day" - Apparently not one of the band's most enduring songs, but I always felt it deserved to be. Wish I had the faintest idea what this song is about, because I bet it's interesting. "You will be my martian honey all the day" makes me very curious.
"Motorway to Roswell" - Black Francis was still obsessed with aliens (and would continue to be), and this song seems to tell the fractured tale of an outer space visitor who ended up somewhere he didn't want to be. It's the longest song on the record, and it deserves the extra space.
"The Navajo Know" - The last song on the last Pixies record, and though I don't know why, it seems like a fitting send-off. It's got a great little melody, obscure-as-shit lyrics, and makes little sense. I love the production on this track.
It's possible that I've listened to this LP more than any other Pixies record. I had it on cassette right when it came out, and it got a lot of play. Tons. Sometimes I still think this is my all-time favorite Pixies album, but that remains a tough call to make. I guess it's safe to say that it's right up there with all their other ones.
And this would be it for the band who pioneered alternative rock and then broke up before they could enjoy the landscape they created. I always thought that was a sweet move. Don't worry, though - there's a bunch more Pixies stuff coming. Settle in.
"Head On"/"Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons"