MUSIC REVIEW | Pixies – Bossanova (1990)


Just a year after breaking through with Doolittle, Pixies backed it up. And impressively, they didn’t just manage to live up to the hype of the preceding album, they surpassed it, with Bossanova. According to all the raves I’ve read over the years, this record seems to be the one that made them the revered band they remain to be to this day. After listening to, and being more than just a little impressed by Doolittle, does Bossanova live up to its formidable rep?

Straight away, opening instrumental Cecelia Ann kicked my ass into knowing this is an album worth my attention. It’s musically lighter and more intricate than anything on Doolittle and really is a perfect album opener. Immediately, you know Bossanova isn’t here to mess around or rehash anything that made Doolittle a success.

Amazingly, it’s quickly over shadowed by Rock Music. A punk rock screamer that packs the same punch as Cecelia Ann. It just does it a little quicker, with less pomp and ceremony.

Up next is Velouria, the song on Bossanova I was most familiar with before now. To me, it’s the most reminiscent of Doolittle. Later, Is She Weird falls into the same category. The intertwining vocals of Frank Black and Kim Deal, the driving, relentless bass of Deal, the quiet, loud, quiet structure. But even with all of that, it’s never rehash of anything from that album. It’s more a step forward, seeing how those ingredients can evolve.

Allison is surprising in its pop rockery. It’s lighter and more optimistic than anything else I’ve heard from Pixies and it’s a great change. Don’t get me wrong, before hearing this song, I would have been happy for Bossanova to stick with exactly what it was doing until this point. But getting this change up so out of the blue gave the album a little boost that only makes it better.

I can’t imagine Frank Black ever had a problem with a lack of confidence or ever second guessed his own creative choices, but songs like Down to the Well and The Happening make me think there may have been just a little insecurity with his vocals on Dootlittle. Because he really goes all out vocally on Bossanova , and these two songs are a great examples of how he can sound when he really pushes things to the absolute limit.

By the time the album starts to wrap up with Hang Wire, it feels like this is the perfect summation of everything about Bossanova. There are louder songs, there are more urgent songs, there are more aggressive songs. But Hang Wire finds a way to incorporate all of the best bits from so many disparate aspects, and turn them into one, coherent song.

Listening to Doolittle in its entirety, instead of just cherry picking the handful of Pixies songs I already knew I liked, I definitely started to understand their impact and the reverence still felt toward this band. Listening to Bossanova, I get it even more. This is a band who totally invented a new way of making pop, rock and punk music. And the one-two combo of Doolittle and Bossanova is the proof I needed to finally understand this more than I ever have before.


5 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEW | Pixies – Bossanova (1990)

  1. Great summation for an album with such a massive reputation.
    Should we be awed by the band, Pixies?
    Hah, you bet we should!

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