Underground Sound - the Pixies' Doolittle
If you ever find yourself in a discussion about music from the ’80s, I will be the first to argue that it was a horrible time for music, what with its over the top glam and its hair metal and those god-awful synth bands. However, I would also be the first to say that the ’80s were important because of a group of college dropouts from Boston. Their parents knew them as Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black), Joey Santiago, David Lovering and Kim Deal, but the world will remember them as the Pixies.
Although you may have never heard of the band, chances are good that you’ve heard one of their songs. Their music has appeared in many movies, from independent films like Haiku Tunnel to lowbrow comedies like Accepted, but they might best be known for their song “Where is My Mind” which was featured in the 1999 movie Fight Club. They’ve influenced every important rock band from the ’90s until today; everyone from Alice in Chains to Nirvana to Weezer to Modest Mouse to Radiohead owes their sound to the Pixies. With their jagged, surf-influenced guitar sound, start-and-stop song structure, soft-to-loud-to-soft vocal style and their ability to tweak surf rock, punk and bubblegum pop, the Pixies were a band unlike any other band before them, and unlike any band since.
Despite their short career, spanning only five years from 1987 until 1991, the Pixies were able to crank out four albums and an EP, each full of great songs. However, their best work, and one of the greatest and most important American rock albums of all time, is their second full release, Doolittle. Doolittle is a lot like the Bible; it’s full of violence, sex and end-of-the-world prophecy. To put the album into words is to make it look like a jangled mish-mash of genres. There are moments of pure UK surf rock (the oceanic “Wave of Mutilation”), sweet pop bliss (“Here Comes Your Man”), reckless punk rock (“Crackity Jones”) and just straight up ethereal weirdness (“Silver”). Songs like “Debaser” and “Tame” serve as a template for the grunge revolution of the early ’90s, especially “Tame,” which uses the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic to perfection with lead singer Thompson (Black) going from a sinister whisper to outright screams.
As far as looking for meaning in the lyrics, at first glance Doolittle is like Huck Finn: those trying to find a plot will be shot. However, for the audiophile willing to look past the jarring rock of their songs, there are sorted tales of destruction (the end of the world double punch of “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and “Mr. Grieves”), desperate cries against infidelity (the epic and tragic “Hey”) and even a retelling of the biblical downfall of Samson (“Gouge Away”). Doolittle has it all; both the thinkers and the rockers can find something on this record.
Listen to Nevermind or The Blue Album, and then listen to Doolittle, and you’ll never hear those albums in the same way again. With a reckless passion and youthful innovation not seen by many bands today, the Pixies’ Doolittle is the album that few have heard, that has influenced all.
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