Ah, the Pixies. Perhaps best known for being a prime influence for such seminal bands as Nirvana, Radiohead, Weezer, Blur...and even David Bowie, the Pixies are regarded as one of the most important alternative bands of all time. With good reason. With Come On Pilgrim, the Pixies seemingly came out of nowhere, with their darkly humorous lyrics and uniquely quirky but melodic sound. With Surfer Rosa they truly exploded, quickly becoming a cult hit all over the country. The album is highly regarded as their best work, and I must partially agree - the album is flawless. However, it is my perogative to call Doolittle their best.
To start with, the album's artwork is some of the finest I've ever seen. The bronze and green meld beautifully with the odd but fitting pictures. The songs are out of order in the booklet, but who cares? Gil Norton's production of the album is somewhat different than Steve Albini's. While Steve opted for a very raw, garage-like sound on Surfer Rosa, Doolittle feels more like it was recorded in the studio. It suits the album perfectly, however, and I couldn't imagine it any other way. It sounds great.
Now...onto the music!
The album opens with the relaxed yet wild "Debaser." Truly an anthemic track, the verses and chorus flawlessly meld together helped by a starting bass line from Kim Deal and a catchy guitar line from Joey Santiago. The song is even better live! But wait...what's this? Slicing up eyeballs? This my friends, is the beauty of the Pixies. Taking a wonderful, catchy melody...and essentially tricking us with dark lyrics. What's even better is the second verse, in which Frank Black replaces "I want you to know" with "ha ha ho" and adding a quick, timely, and loud uptake of breath before continuing. What other band does this kind of stuff? None, that's who.
Next up is "Tame," which is the epitome of the Pixies, in my opinion. Starting off tensely hushed with some of the oddest lyrics I've heard ("got hips like Cinderella?"), you just feel uneasy, anxious to hear what's next...and with a slight crescendo on the words, "cookie I think you're..." the chorus starts, and all hell breaks loose. Let me say now: Frank Black has the most chilling scream I've heard in my life. After the chorus and second verse, there's a short little duet of breathing words between Frank Black and Kim Deal, similar to the breathing in "Debaser" but more pronounced, and truly original. With that, the song hits its highest point, with creepy backing vocals by Ms. Deal and Frank really letting loose with his screaming. One of my favorite Pixies songs ever.
"Wave of Mutilation" is a wonderful U-turn from "Tame." Relaxed and catchy with a very soothing chorus, "Wave of Mutilation" offsets the rest of the album quite well, being the most mellow track. Also, the Pixies often played a slower version of it live, which coupled with "In Heaven" is truly awesome.
Am I the only one who thinks that Weezer's "Undone" sounds like "I Bleed?" The way the verses are done is incredibly similar, though there's nothing wrong with that. This song features some wonderful duet voicing between Frank and Kim, and a nice build up to the end.
"Here Comes Your Man" was a pretty big radio hit, and for good reason - it's probably the closest to true "pop" the Pixies have come; it's very different from any other song they've done. Super catchy, and LIGHT, "Here Comes Your Man" is another lovely change of pace on the album.
Again, a U-turn. Opening with some thundering background drumming by Dave Lovering, puncuated by a dissonant stream of repeated guitar notes, "Dead" immediately feels tense. Frank Black's muffled vocals for the first thirty seconds simply add to the tension. What follows is some odd words from Frank Black, assisted by more of Joey Santiago's dissonant guitar chords...but wait, what's this? The chorus erupts...full of melody! A shocking development to say the least, as the song chorus feels triumphant and...perfect. After some repeat verses, the chorus comes again...but this time, it's in a minor key, catching us off guard. A fantastic song.
Following the trend of eeriness is "Monkey Gone To Heaven." It's a beautiful track backed by strings and a relaxed feel, with lovely singing by Frank Black (and more nice harmonic chorus work with Kim). The infamous bridge contains the immortal words of, essentially, "If man is 5, then the devil is 6, if the devil is 6 then God is 7." Even though it's so simple that it shouldn't, these lyrics make sense, the funniest part of it all being that Frank Black said they mean nothing - and he's right. Nonetheless, a lovely track.
"Mr. Grieves" is something of a bi-polar track, starting off slowly (but eerily) with Frank Black singing, "hope everything's alriiiiiight" and melding some creepy laughter in, later speeding up to a light tempo, then slowing down again. A solid song.
"Crackity Jones" is another one of my favorites, and probably the most "standard punk" song the Pixies ever played. More creepy vocals, backed by creepy guitar playing, and a high tempo...another great song.
After the four-track stream of creepiness, another light song is almost expected. It comes with "La La Love You," which you'd think is just a joke song, but it's much more. Dave Lovering's best drumming is contained in the song, along with one of the suavest guitar line's I've heard in my life. Dave also sings the song, with simple lyrics such as "all I'm saying, pretty baby...la la love you, don't mean maybe." A nice track with some nice playing on it.
"No. 13 Baby" is my second favorite Pixies song of all time. It has everything: lovely melodies and harmonies, awesome instrumental work from everyone, and my favorite lyrics of all time from Frank Black: "Black tear falling on my lazy queen, got a tattooed tit, say number 13." Dark and odd, but so wonderfully flowing, this is in my eyes the most underrated song the Pixies have written. A masterpiece, if I may say so myself.
"There Goes My Gun" feels like filler at first, simply because it's short and doesn't contain very meaningful lyrics...but it really isn't. The instrumental work is top notch (as always) from every member of the band, and the dueting vocals of Kim Deal and Frank Black are always welcome. Otherwise a pretty standard track, short and to the point.
"Hey" is my favorite Pixies song of all time. So, I guess I'm biased, but considering the fact that the Pixies are one of my favorite bands...that would make the entire review biased, huh? But who cares about that - this song is just perfect. Starting with just Frank Black and Kim Deal's lovely bass playing, the clean, quiet guitar soon joins in the fray. Frank Black really shows off his voice in this song. When you hear him singing the words of the chorus "we're chained," it sounds like he really means what he's singing. Kim's simple "chained" echo adds more than one could possibly imagine. Joey Santiago's guitar work throughout the song is moody and essential, along with the subtle drumming from David Lovering. The bridge leads back into the chorus wonderfully, with the song subtly climaxing with Frank's pained cries of "we're chained" followed by a short ascending guitar slide. I can't put into words the feelings this song gives me.
With "Silver," we get another underrated track. Awesome stylistic guitar work helped by simple and subtle drumming, and the vocal harmonies of Frank and Kim can truly be savored. Frank's falsetto alongside Kim's faint singing sounds gorgeous.
And with that, we have reached the end of the album. "Gouge Away" closes a perfect album perfectly. Touching upon all points of the Pixies with lovely melodies and harmonies (especially in the chorus), eerie lyrics and excellent instrumental work, "Gouge Away" leaves us wanting more, but somehow satisfied at the same time.
Doolittle is one of the greatest albums ever made, at least in my eyes. It's easily in my top five, alongside albums from Weezer, the Descendents, the Velvet Underground, Bad Religion and D.I.
Thank God they've reunited, huh? Let's all hope they put out another record - hopefully more like Doolittle, less like Bossanova. Oh, and my apologies for such a long review, I considered trimming it down but I felt that doing so would be an injustice to the album. Also, if you don't think the Pixies are "punk," please don't bother responding. I mean really, who cares? They're amazing, and that's what matters.