The Pixies are a band from the 1980’s that’s responsible for being a precursor of the alternative rock boom in the 1990’s. They changed the formula of making music for technique over context which is what almost every band & artist in the 1980’s never seem to try, except for alternative and collage rock. Music back then 80’s were heavily depended on context of what they are singing about while collage rock bands chose technique to have more opportunities of innovative songwriting and especially evolve music in general. Today we owe a lot to the Pixies for giving us music that took a step way ahead above almost every artist at the time and alternative music today isn’t all that different compared to what the Pixies started. Pixies’ debut album “Surfer Rosa” filled with experimentation with each and every song, but listen through that album entirely felt (at least to me) like the song list or order of the songs are missed placed. One moment in “Surfer Rosa,” you have an uplifting song like “Bone Machine” & “Gigantic” but out of nowhere “Where is My Mind” was so good that it didn’t feel like it was made by the same band. Then you got songs like “I’m Amazed” that was talking and no singing. I appreciate the variety of innovative songwriting with “Surfer Rosa,” but the transition between songs was unbalanced like how the sad & depressing moments in Disney animated features just jump-shift to a happy scene without giving the audience to wash away their tears. I admit my complaints with “Surfer Rosa” is unfair since of course I’m reviewing the album after that album, but where I’m getting at is how the Pixies’ following LP “Doolittle” felt like a humongous improvement over their “Surfer Rosa” with their songwriting, furthering their talents in alternative music innovations, and especially the order of songs making the transition between songs made “Doolittle” complete! The best way I can describe all these songs is that each of them are a great variety of tone, paste, genre, & a daring experimentation with each band member’s instrument that keeps the album interesting all the way to the very end.
And how could you not be interested in this album when you start the album with the first song “Debaser?” It begins this volcanic eruption-like feeling that was the perfect start for any album. Honest to God, “Debaser” was a flawless song that was filled with pure enjoyment and excitement. Black Francis’s vocals just roar to the listeners screaming happiness and almost no care in the world but to be a debaser whatever that is. The lyrics of this song are a reference to Black Francis’s favorite surrealist film called Un Chien Andalou. According to Francis he said that film is their musical inspiration and I can see where they’ve got all of these insane ideas and turn them into a musical phenomenon. Each time Francise shouts “Un chien Andalusia” the listeners feel like raising their fists up in the air shouting “Chien!” And whenever Black Francis shouts “Debaser,” Kim Deal, as back-up vocals, sings gently “Debaser” right after Francis like a shadow mimicking the moving object. Hearing Kim’s voice was just plain orgasmic each time you hear it. This is the best way you an open such an awesome album.
Speaking of orgasmic, the following track “Tame” was just plain sexy. The lyrics of that song was like flirtatious words about dancing with a person who has good hips & moves and you’re in progress showing the best moves. It’s fast paste and starts out gentle with Francis loudly whispering, and then out of nowhere Francis started screaming “TAAAME!” like a freak. Hearing Francis screaming the title of the song was actually more powerful than hearing him shout “Debaser.” When the Pixies released “Tame” they have officially created the screamo subgenre and that in itself is an accomplishment. “Tame” so influential on alternative rock that throughout the 1990’s alternative rock followed what this song started with later bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer and almost everyone else added their screams to be almost like “Tame.” But what I absolutely find innovative about this song is that both Francis and Kim start heavy breathing during the song and its definitely part of the song which made their heavy breathing like singing after shouting “Tame.” Dude, I’m already listing why Doolittle is so awesome and I’m not even done with this review!
Next track is another masterpiece “Wave of Mutilation.” While “Debaser” and “Tame” were the screaming style of alternative rock, the Pixies never forgot how they started their music career; they went back in making surf rock. And the end result after listening to it was beauty. It started off with fast drum beat and guitar to lead off the song. Then during the verse, Black Francis automatically turns to the other side of the coin from aggressive to gentle and nice. With unforgettable lyrics such as “You think I’m dead, but I sail away on a Wave of Mutilation” and kept repeating the title of the song kept making you love this song more and more. The guitar riffs resembles a lot of the surf rock music from the 80’s but the Pixies gave “Wave of Mutilation” that epic feel from beginning to end which in itself created an everlasting appeal.
And now with the “I Bleed” now this is another accomplishment Pixies have made because just like “Tame” influenced the screamo subgenre, “I Bleed” is a major influence to the emo subgenre. I blame this song for creating this now called emo music genre which created the most embarrassing subculture of any decade and a loathsome music scene, but I can’t hate this song because it was such an amazing track. This part of the album starts to slow its paste from the thrashing of the first three tracks, but that however doesn’t mean it’s a slow down. The verse is brilliant with Black Francis saying the lyrics and Kim Deal singing the lyrics over Black; again like a shadow mimicking the moving object. The chorus is just Black saying I Bleed. The bridge is kind of cool, it sounds like it has 2 or 3 voices used in it. But most noticeable was the guitar screeching that sounds like a machine operating that I find very unique!
Then on the next track “Here Comes Your Man,” which is very similar to their other track “Gigantic” from “Surfer Rosa” because it’s a love song that resembles a lot of to a woman’s dream man. Both the lyrics of those two songs describes this man & situation they are singing about, but what made “Here Comes Your Man” a superior song is that the guitars riffs playing is totally surfer rock and whenever they sing the title of the song it has that beautiful feeling while singing along with it. This very song has that retro feel of 1960’s surf rock and that warm feeling while listening to its upbeat nature. Out of all the songs in Debaser, this one stick out my (and almost everyone else’s) head because it’s catchy, witty tune cannot be removed to anyone’s memory.
The next song “Dead” is very similar to “I Bleed” but the lyrics were less constructive and much more confusing. But with weak lyrics the only thing this song has going for is the guitar riffs and it was just plain awesome. I say it was similar to “I Bleed” because the guitar riff sounds like machines operating. While the guitar feels like they’re jamming to your ear, later in bridge the tunes sound so catchy like a build-up to this tune. The poundy drums and a cool guitar riff is probably the only thing to care about “Dead.” That alone is a good thing because music can’t be music without instrument.
And now here’s the big track, “Monkey Gone To Heaven.” This song actually describes the cover-art. The song’s main theme is about environmentalism with a genius use of biblical references and Hebrew mythology. The song mainly deals with man’s destruction of the ocean and confusion of man’s place in the universe. Things get flushed and decomposed and it’s this big, dark, mysterious place. And when they sing “This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven” you just feel like putting your hands in the air and do the wave to honor that Monkey who’s in Heaven. This track includes references to numerology in the lyrics “If man is five/then the Devil is six/and God is seven” which is actually the best part of the song. The song’s numerology is alluded to on the single’s cover, which features figures of five, six and seven, and also a monkey with a halo. We shall honor thy monkey who was tied in man’s destruction and hope he found a place in heaven.
Now this is where the album starts to slow down with “Mr. Grieves,” because it is unfortunately the weakest song on the album. It has a cool guitar riff that resembles a lot of Hispanic music but I didn’t get this song nor would I find it appealing, but just one bad song doesn’t defeat the strength that this album holds because the following track “Crackity Jack” Which is another smash hit surf rock song. It has that fast paste similar to “Wipeout.” This would be the perfect song to fit in a jet ski race around the ocean. This song was described to a crazed roommate and was inspired by Francis’ stay in an apartment block with a “weirdo, psycho, gay roommate” in Puerto Rico as a student. Based on how fun and fast pasted this song is I wish to have a roommate like Francis’s. Crackity Jones” is the fastest and shortest song on “Doolittle” and I think the album needs a song like this if Pixies wants to offer variety.
And now comes one of the loveliest long in alternative rock and that is “La La Love You.” Black Francis start singing like Elvis Presley saying don’t be mean baby, la la love you. It starts out crazy with a fast drum beat and then starts to slow a little with the surf rock guitar riffs and all the weird whistling & experimental sound added to create the tone of the song. It flows like a ocean wave reaching gently to the beach and like all the best songs in this album, whenever they sing the title of the song, it’s keeps listeners happy.
Unfortunately, this is where the album starts to go downhill with songs like “No. 13 Baby,” “There Goes My Gun,” “Hey,” and “Silver” that slowed Doolittle’s excitement to a bore-fest. This could have break Doolittle as the as the 1st Half was only good, until the ending song “Gouge Away,” that was almost the perfect end song for any alternative rock album. This track single handedly make up for the 2nd half of the album. After listening to Silver, I really need something to pick me up. Thank God for Gouge Away! This song starts off with drums and bass and Black saying the legendary line, “Gouge away, you can gouge away, stay all day, if you want to…” The Chorus part is classic. This was a supurb ending to a classic album.
Now this was a really great album with drawback with 5 tracks that dragged the album. But regardless, Doolittle offered so much variety that it almost felt like a greatest hits compilation album. There are so many influences of surfer rock, Hispanic music, rock and roll, but was all elevated with that alternative feel. The Pixies were definitely ahead of it’s time and was claimed as one of the most influential bands of all time. In all of indie/alternative, there may be no single album more borrowed from, adapted, or flat-out ripped-off than The Pixies’ “Doolittle” and for good reason, the album is almost senselessly varied; mood-altering hooks, poetically insane lyrics, larynx demolishing screams and surreal croons, surf, thrash, pop, slow burns and races to the finish line, the album offered some of the most hardcore riffs. Many of these songs have created a lasting appeal for a listener like me and it’s hard not to follow this album’s influence because this was a huge step for music and it’s responsible for the music we have to day. I’m not saying that to make the Pixies look good, back in the late 1980’s we were over-saturated with that 80’s ugly fashion inspired by the pop, glam rock, soft rock and hair-band heavy metal. Imagine if Nirvana wasn’t inspired by the Pixies or if the 90’s didn’t have Nirvana to change the music industry, I can imagine people have fashion that was much worse that what we all seen in that decade and it’s thanks to “Doolittle” I can’t praise this album more. After Doolittle was released the Pixies made two more albums “Bossanova” (1990) and “Trompe le Monde” (1991) that was as well classic albums, but I still pick Doolittle as their best work. Afterwards, the band broke up in 1993 and did not reunite till 11 years later. Since then they haven’t made anything new, but it should stay that way so that their reputation should not be affected with one disappointing comeback album. Ever since I’ve listened to Doolittle all the songs that I like, I can’t get it out of my head because they are so damn catchy. Two decades since this album was released people still regard Doolittle as the best album of all time and its still continues to influence bands today. I think I’ve did my best in describing how I felt with each part of the album and I highly recommend “Doolittle” to anyone who loves any kind of rock music. — written by The Top Lister
The Top Lister’s score:
- Debaser – 6 / 5
- Tame – 5 / 5
- Wave of Mutilation – 5 / 5
- I Bleed – 4 / 5
- Here Comes Your Man – 5 / 5
- Dead – 4 / 5
- Monkey Gone To Heaven – 5 / 5
- Mr. Greeves – 3 / 5
- Crackity Jones – 5 / 5
- La La Love You – 5 / 5
- No. 13 Baby – 4 / 5
- There Goe’s My Gun – 3 / 5
- Hey – 4 / 5
- Silver – 2 / 5
- Gouge Away – 5 / 5
OVERALL SCORE – 5 / 5