Sorca McGrath of Ships: This Album Changed My Life: Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)

Sorca McGrath of Ships on its ferocious, punkish, pop-tinged noise

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I’m in the back bedroom of my childhood home in Coolock, lying on the floor, belly down and propped up on my elbows, so I can press stop, forward and rewind. In front of me is my most precious belonging: a radio cassette recorder with one-push recording and a built-in microphone.

Its early years saw Dad’s entire tape collection pass through it. One notable casualty was The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, whose magnetic tape finally snapped from overuse – a danger of overloving music not experienced by the youth of today. Digital files never snap.

With little to no money to buy my own records, I dial through the stations, waiting for something to catch my ear, so I can record it on the cassette, making mixes from pirate stations and late-night Dave Fanning sessions. Like an explosion of possibility, the ferocious, punkish, pop-tinged noise of the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa finds its way to me.

I fall in love with the band’s raucous energy and bow at the feet of their ingenious riffs, harmonies and oddball subject matters. I am beyond intrigued: I am captivated. I go on to learn every lyric, strange break and beat on that record – and eventually to cover Gigantic in my first band.

I spend every penny I have over the next few years on completing their back catalogue, from Come on Pilgrim to B-side collections, in the form of bootlegged tapes. I still have those cassettes and my one-push recording machine.  – In conversation with Niall Byrne

Ships are nominated for the Choice Music Prize, for Irish album of the year 2017, for Precession. The prize will be awarded at Vicar Street, Dublin, on Thursday, March 8th

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