I believe this to be the best of the Pixies' albums, with Doolittle at a very close second. It may be true that they wrote better songs down the road, but with Steve Albini's grinding production and the fire down somewhere in Black Francis' lungs and Joey Santiago's right hand, this is the most bone-crunching, throat-tearing, purely PHYSICAL album the Pixies ever made (and certainly one of the most intense albums rock music ever produced).
Every thumping, screaming, thrashing moment conjures images of bodies - usually bodies coming apart ("Break my body", "Broken face", "Bone machine"). But even what passes for romantic/love songs on the album are obsessed with physical detail, such as when Black Francis insists his lover prove her long-distance existence with physical evidence ("bloody your hands on the cactus tree/wipe it on your dress/and send it to me"). "Gigantic", which sports one of the best bass/guitar riffs *ever*, is obsessed not even with lust or sex, but with Kim Deal's swaggering celebration of her boyfriend's, ahem, "big big love". This exceedingly frank approach compliments their intense sound perfectly. The singing by both Deal and Francis is at the peak of their abilities, blending together like no male/female pair has sung since the Mamas and the Papas (if Mama Cass was into heavy metal). And, probably my favorite part, Black Francis produces probably the best screams I've ever heard throughout the album, particularly on "Bone Machine".
I could go on and on about Joey Santiago's remarkably innovative guitar playing and the fantastic drumming, but I'll leave it at this: Surfer Rosa is a crucial album for anyone who is interested in rock music made past 1989 or so. Most rock movements of the 90's, and therefore everything beyond, were deeply influenced by this album (most famously Kurt Cobain admitted to having "stolen" much of his sound from the band - stolen is a bit harsh, but somewhat accurate). No collection is complete without it.