Thursday, 21 March 2013

Features>>25 years of Surfer Rosa

“I wanted to rip off the Pixies.” Kurt Cobain
“It was the one that made me go ‘Holy shit.’ It was so fresh. It rocked without being lame.” Billy Corgan
“It blew my mind.” PJ Harvey
“They changed my life.” Thom Yorke
“The most compelling music of the entire 1980s.” David Bowie

March 21, 1988, three months after its completion in a Boston recording studio, Pixies’ Surfer Rosa is released on English independent record label, 4AD. At the time, who would have known the impact it would have or the legacy and influence it would leave, still a quarter of a century after its release. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Weezer, Pavement, Modest Mouse, Blur…the list may read of a who’s who of 90s alt rock, but that’s precisely how influential Surfer Rosa became to that movement. Without the impact of college rock staples such as the Pixies, we may not have been so lucky later on to hear such names. Whilst its quiet-loud dynamic may have been regularly imitated, Surfer Rosa has simply not been equaled or bettered since its release, still sounding as fresh and raw on regular plays as it was 25 years ago. 

It cost just $10,000 to make, with producer, former Big Black front man Steve Albini, receiving $1500 and no royalties from its sales, which would eventually end up going Gold in the US in 2005, around the time of their reunion. Albini’s abrasive and lo-fi punk noise added to the pop dynamics and surf rock influences of the Pixies, which made them stand alone and pushed them away from the hardcore punk scene of 80s US alt rock. The surrealism element that has always been the cornerstone of the Pixies’ sound was also present, with themes including mutilation and voyeurism  “Gigantic” is supplemented by its burst of distorted guitar noise and welcoming bass intro,  “Cactus” is a slow burning mood changer and the Pixies’ most famous hit, “Where is My  Mind?”, a one-take ode to insanity and ecstasy. 

Surfer Rosa’s impact helped push the US college rock scene into the mainstream, with Pixies’ follows up eagerly anticipated and more accessible to commercialisation, concluding with appearances on MTV’s 120 Minutes, The Late Show on BBC2 and a headline set at Reading Festival in 1990. By the late 80s and early 90s, alternative rock began to incorporate more airtime on radio stations, rather than being secluded solely to college radio, which in turn saw the breakout of grunge and alternative rock to a much wider audience than before. 

Its legacy is compounded with its appearance at 315th Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, whilst it was also Pitchfork’s seventh best album of the 1980s, who incidentally had the follow up, Doolittle, placed above Surfer Rosa. They would later beef up their production for Doolittle with Gil Norton, with Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis in the belief that Surfer Rosa “sounded way better than the other ones.”

Monday, 11 March 2013

Features>>NIN are back and why it's important

Just when it looked as though Trent Reznor would be expanding his resume with the debut EP from How To Destroy Angels this year, his brainchild and main focus, Nine Inch Nails, announced a surprise live return with sets at Fuji Rock and Rock n Heim already confirmed, alongside their UK exclusive appearance at Reading and Leeds.

Formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio, Nine Inch Nails released a total of seven albums in total, plus an EP titled Broken. Reznor brought industrial rock from underneath the American underground into mainstream rock conscious. Whereas artists like Ministry or Big Black never received such mainstream exposure in the eighties, NIN were regulars at festivals such as Lollapalooza and received several Grammy nominations. Their impact helped their peers gain more recognition, with Ministry’s Psalm 69 becoming platinum three years after its release, so much so that David Bowie compared their impact to revered art rock band, The Velvet Underground. Their second LP, The Downward Spiral, a tale of a man’s destruction and suicide attempt, based around Reznor’s heroin addiction, went 4xPlatinum in the US and Silver in the UK as well as being named on several “Best Albums” lists. It spawned the track "Hurt”, which was covered by country legend Johnny Cash, before his death in 2003. The double LP The Fragile was released in 1999 as a follow up in a midst of hype, and went to number one on the US Billboard. Their most recent album , and seventh in total, The Slip, was released in 2008 and Reznor has promised work on a follow up in the next year.

Reznor has also been making a name for himself in Hollywood, after winning the Oscar for Best Original Score alongside his HTDA band mate, Atticus Ross. Their dark ambient mood for The Social Network added dramatic tension that drove the film’s urgent climax. They were later asked by the same director, David Fincher, to do his remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which saw them later nominated for a Golden Globe.

Their return to touring has been mouth-watering for many reasons. Their live reputation has grown off of the back of their phenomenal performance at Reading in 2007, with “Hurt” among the highlights. After their so called ‘farewell tour’ in 2009, which included a co-headline stop with Jane’s Addiction on the NINJA tour, it seemed always likely NIN would be back on the live front. They are simply too good to retire. Now they are back in Berkshire and Leeds, make sure you DO NOT give them a miss, they will be the set of the weekend.