Pixies, Doolittle (1989)
I remember when Surfer Rosa, their first full-length album, showed up out of nowhere at the radio station back in college; it was one of those things that people immediately started playing the shit out of. "Where Is My Mind," of course, holds up today as a simply stunning track; "River Euphrates" was similarly great, and "Gigantic," one of bassist Kim Deal's few lead vocal turns, was (and is) a marvel. Ultimately, though, I didn't spend nearly as much time with the rest of the album which, while great and groundbreaking and all that, can also be a challenging listen.
Returning a few years later with Doolittle, frontman Frank Black takes the Pixies (slightly, barely) in a more commercial direction, with a few tracks even getting a little mainstream attention ("Monkey Gone to Heaven," the surprisingly power-poppy "Here Comes Your Man").
The album announces its presence decisively with the opening "Debaser," which stands alongside "Where Is My Mind" as the band's definitive track. Its simple riff, loud-soft-loud dynamic, haunting backing vox by Kim, and absurdist lyrics (an ode to surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel) are genre-defining, kicking off countless imitators (from Nirvana on down).
Here, take a look at the "Debaser" video:
A few other tracks achieve nearly the same heights -- "Wave of Mutilation," "I Bleed." Beyond those and the hits, as well as a few other shiny nuggets, the album is largely back in Surfer Rosa territory, a little too off-putting to be in constant rotation for me.
Here's a live take on "I Bleed":
And while it may be sacrilege among the indie rock set, I personally don't spend a lot of time with my Pixies albums these days; each of their releases had a handful of phenomenally great songs and some I could do without, making them perfect for a stunning 80-minute mix cd (label below in case you'd like to create your own Spotify mix; recently remixed to add the few salvageable tracks from their recent reunion albums):
Buy it on Amazon.