Review Summary: The Pixies are growing up, to be a Debaser!
I’m not sure if the word “maturation” applies to the Pixies and their 2nd release, Doolittle
. If by maturing you mean becoming more honest or sincere then no, this band is too “hip” for that. Yet, there is something about their sophomore album that makes it sound more serious than their debut. Perhaps it’s the several normal sounding songs, no more pointless dialogues like You ***in’ Die!
Or perhaps it’s that this album rocks a little bit more and has some real aggression in spots, unlike the complete goof-off manner of Surfer Rosa
. However, one big difference from it’s former is that it has no filler. 15 tracks, none which take themselves too seriously, none which taunt the listener with elitist inaccessibility, and all that have something to say.
However, one thing hasn’t changed about these college rockers: the lyrics. Slicing up eyeballs, Girlie so groovy
goes the verse of the first track, Debaser
. The album opener is referring to the 1920s movie “Un Chien Andalou.” The movie was directed by a group of artists going against what made a movie. It had no script, narrative, or proper actors. The song’s verse replicates a scene from the movie where a man is forced to slice the eyeballs out of a girl’s sockets (how lovely!). The song itself is about Black, after seeing this movie, wanting to live by it. He saw it as a movie that brought down the quality of the cinematic industry in general, and he too wanted to be the “Debaser” of the music industry. Despite this abstract song theme, the music is quite upbeat and fun. Consisting of an anthemic bass line, roaring guitar leads, and Black screaming out nonsense, it, in a sense, is the perfect album opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
As I mentioned above, Doolittle
set the standard for aggression in this new alternative genre. Tame
is probably the Pixies’ most aggressive song. Actually it’s more about its transitions than aggressiveness, consisting of a quiet verse and then a chorus screaming YOU’RE TAAAAAAAME
. Transitions like these are what influenced latter day Grunge/ Alternative artists. The bridge also contains heavy breathing and a girl squealing Uh Huh, Uh Huh
; very primal. This, according to Black, is supposed to be a “sexual representation” and is violently portrayed. This goes on until he goes back to repeat his brutal screams of TAAAAAAAAME
. Wave of Mutilation
, despite its name, seems to be a harmless surf rock tune. However the lyrics are dark, inspired by an incident when a Japanese businessman committed suicide by driving off a bridge into the ocean, with both his kids and wife inside. It’s a very sinister theme, but the music anything but. Starting with a foot stomping, chain-saw buzzing riff, and then Black refraining You think I’m dead, but I sail away on a Wave of Mutilation…
starts off with a slightly distorted bass line, adds hip/hop like drum beat, then a very low-key guitar lead. The music drops off, except the bass and Black harmonizes with Kim singing As loud as hell, a ringing bell
. The harmonizing is incredibly uneven, but it suits the track, which itself is uneven. The whole song consists of this bizarre harmonizing, including a bridge where Black is struggling to scream as his voice is overpowered by an almost-whispering woman. The next song is quite the opposite, containing Black and Deal’s best vocal performance. Here Comes Your Man
is a simple pop tune, which at first glance appears to be a love song (but is actually about an atomic bomb). However, it’s executed so well, it could have very well been done by The Beatles! If you disagree, listen to the You’ll never wait so long…
bridge and tell me your opinion (which I could honestly care less about haha).
The abrasive Dead
, similar to I Bleed
, is filled with out of tune guitar bends, replicating the sound of a siren, with Black’s vocals sounding like he’s shouting them through a megaphone. However, the chorus sounds like your typical power pop song. It's weird how many songs on here are dealing with violence, pain, and death - and yet how they treat these subjects as if they were all locked inside a dollhouse. When listening to the tracks mentioned above, I occasionally wonder if these guys were just parodying Goth-rock. Indeed, there are several elements of parody in Doolittle
, but it would be wrong to reduce it to pure parody. Besides, they occasionally bust out a normal-sounding song in this midst of craziness. Monkey Gone to Heaven
, which is the closest thing on here to a ballad, is an emotional and deep song. The title explains the theme of the song itself. The music creates an atmosphere as being depressing/ woeful, however how can it with such an immature subject? Well, the emotion that is put into those lines This monkey’s gone to Heaven
paired with the backing cellos and melody makes up for it. Another highlight of this song is the bridge where the music drops off and Black whispers, If man is five, then the devil is six
. Then he begins to scream If the devil is six, then God is seven!
It creates a beautiful climax to end the track.
starts with a reggae-like guitar picking. Hope everything is all right
Black says with an evil snicker. It starts off slow, relaxed and slowly builds up energy until Black starts asking frantically Do you have another opinion?
This song represents an insane man, who is grieving over someone’s death but is trying to hide it, explaining Black’s almost defensive attitude. Crackity Jones
is the fastest/ most schizophrenic rocker on the album. It begins with a speedy guitar riff and Black introducing our character. Then a snare fill leads into the chorus with Black rapidly screaming the title of the track. This song is so incredibly fast and short, it could almost be qualified as filler (gasp). However, it couldn’t be considering how different it is from the other tracks. The purpose of [b]Doolittle[b/] is to prove that the Pixies can master any genre, no matter how absurd the presentation is.
Next comes, La La Love You
, which is even more straightforward - composed of great melody - with a wonderful electric guitar line lifting it up and lyrics that only betray irony when they go First base, Second base, third base, homerun!
It’s also hilarious to hear it start of with such a foot-stomping drum intro with Francis shouting Shake your butt!
and then turn into a sappy-dappy love song. No. 13 Baby
is anything than its previous track. The uneven guitar bends are enough to make one grind their teeth, and his squealing is even more repulsive. The song even becomes “dirtier” as you hear Black sneer Got a tattooed tit, say number 13.
However there is a piece of melody as demonstrated by the outro solo that is, needless to say, one of the finest uses of delay ever.
There Goes My Gun
begins with Francis shouting YOU HOE!
Pretty different from the sappy-dappy La La Love You
, eh? This leads into roaring guitars and Black refraining There goes my gun
. I can’t go into much detail about this surf-rocker, but it introduces the idea of the next track very well. Hey
is yet another emotional song, like Monkey Gone to Heaven
. However, there is one huge difference between the two; the emotion put into this song is SINCERE. Though the lyrics could be considered crude (whores are common subjects), the despair that Black puts into the line We’re chained
is one of the most “real” things I’ve ever heard. You can feel his struggle, how desperate he really is. The guitar work is also beautiful, fading in and out of solos. This track is an overlooked gem, and could be the best on the album.
is also a very emotional song, but it’s doesn’t deal with grieving or despair, it represents loss of hope. It creates a depressing view of slavery, and is mimicking slave songs. In this land of strangers there are dangers
sings Kim in a high-pitched voice. The powerful hit of the tom creates an echo, almost that of a cave, keeping a steady beat. The music is slow and lifeless, unlike any of the tracks on here. There isn’t even life in Kim’s voice, who sounds like she’s about to break down into tears. Gouge Away
is a great closing track; filled with transitions and previous sounds used throughout the album. It starts with a bass and drum rhythm section with Black saying softly You can gouge away
. Guitar feedback comes into play and then he climaxes screaming with the little energy he has left. The guitar from the chorus keeps repeating until the last chord is played to end the album.
is a monster of an album, breaking the boundaries of music as we knew it. However, people criticize it for being a “nonsense” album. “Their music had no real message,” some critics might analyze. However, the important thing to realize is that you CAN’T analyze it; it’s impressionism. When you hear a song like Monkey Gone to Heaven
, you can’t try to analyze it and make a message out of it. Don’t ask yourself, “What does the monkey represent? Why is the monkey going to heaven? Is the monkey a commentary on the issue of the constantly evolving disputes over religion?” The answer is NO, the Pixies didn’t set out to have a message or start a revolution; they merely set out to make music for people to enjoy. Which brings me back full circle to the question at the beginning of the review – why does Doolittle
sound more mature? Because it tackles more mature matters. There’s an unspoken idea underlying each song. Sure the ideas might be nonsense or immature, but when I listen to this, I don’t feel like I’m listening to a “parody” or a “nonsense” album. It’s actually pretty “serious.” It’s a hilarious, ironic, self-mocking, post-modernist, serious album. Yeah, they're kind of as rare as a breed of white rhinoceros, but they do exist, and Doolittle
is one of them. Hey, why do you think it gets a “classic” status? For the halo around the monkey's head?