Study Guide

Where Is My Mind? Technique

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  • Music

    If you listen to the recording of "Where is My Mind?" that appears on Surfer Rosa, turn the volume up really loud, and close your eyes, it's not too hard to imagine that the Pixies are playing right in your room. You can thank producer Steve Albini for that.

    Albini is well-known for his recording style, which he described this way: " can hear a natural relationship between the instruments where you can imagine a live performance. Quiet things sound quiet, loud things sound loud, drum kits sound like drum kits, guitars sound like guitars, singers sound like singers. So I guess it's about a lack of stylization."

    This philosophy is easy to spot in "Where is My Mind?", with Joey Santiago's lead guitar grinding and crunching, Kim Deal's slightly off-pitch "ooooh's," and the drums and acoustic guitar sounding like they're right in front of you.

    In fact, we'll venture to say that "Where is My Mind?" and Surfer Rosa might not have made such lasting impressions if their recording quality been more polished. By creating a sound so close to a live performance, Albini allowed the strength of the Pixies music to speak for itself, and let listeners feel closer to the song than if it were hidden behind a wall of electronic noise or studio sheen.

  • Songwriting

    In a 1988 interview, Frank Black gave this explanation of his songwriting process:

    "Eighty percent of it's baloney, yeah... I write the songs by singing a whole bunch of syllables along with the chord progressions, and they become words. A bunch of five words might mean something, or stand for something. But the five words after it, or preceding it, sure as hell won't have anything to do with them."

    It seems that the point of Pixies lyrics is not to get at specific meanings or themes, or even to follow a steady structure. For example, even though Black talks about singing "syllables along with the chord progressions," those syllables don't usually end up matching from verse to verse. Take how the second line of the first verse, "try this trick and spin it, yeah," is only seven syllables, while the second line of the second verse, "animals were hiding behind the rock," is ten. The two lines have almost the same melody, but are still structurally unique. This affects how they are sung, and contributes to the idiosyncratic vocal style Black is known for.

    We here at Shmoop like some ambiguity in works of literature and music, but sometimes a work doesn’t even have a couple of competing analyses—it's just plain hard to figure out. We think that's the case with "Where Is My Mind?". Maybe we should just approach Frank Black's does art the same way he did: "It's definitely arbitrary, about going with the immediate...about saying something without thinking about why you said it, and because it has a root inside you, it's much more real, true to you, than if you think and analyze everything."

    We can't resist pointing out, though, that since Black can tell you why he prefers to write the way he does, he has probably—consciously or subconsciously—analyzed other ways of writing and rejected them in favor of his own.

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