Review Summary: As loud as hell, a ringing bellDoolittle
is an album that resonates very strongly with me. It's a very personal record for me that's more than the sum of its parts. I discovered it at just the right time in my life, and it helped spark a musical awakening in me. I wasn't around when Pixies took the alternative music scene by storm, hell I wasn't even alive, but for some reason Doolittle
just sticks with me. Doolittle
is one of those albums that just feels right: it's inviting, accessible while also abrasive, weird but charming, and catchy but dissonant. Pixies were kind of like a boxer who rushes in, delivers a fury of knockout punches, and then bows out before anyone got a chance to fully get what just hit them. An EP and four albums in a five year span is all it took for Pixies to perfect their sound, play it out, and then bail, forever leaving a mark on the world of alternative rock and music in general. Pixies were just the kind of band that did everything right the first time and never looked back, and Doolittle
is the crowning achievement of their brief but legendary career.
It's hard to explain why Doolittle
is perfect musically, but the devil is in the details. Doolittle's
beauty is in its simplicity, from the droning bending of a single chord in the verses of "Dead" and the chorus of "I Bleed," to the four note bass line that opens the record, Doolittle's
reserved arrangements was a much needed break from the larger than life musicality of the 1980s and the catalyst for indie rock in the nineties. A big part of the their musical development was the change in direction Pixies made on Doolittle.
Pixies cleaned up their sound considerably compared to their 1988 debut Surfer Rosa,
whose gritty and lo-fi production by Steve Albini worked great with the all over the place sound the band had at the time, but the more refined sound of Doolittle
needed a much needed upgrade in sound quality. Doolittle
still retains a lot of the dissonance and quirks of Surfer Rosa,
but is presented in a sleek and refined pop sound.
The sleek yet wide open production allowed all members of the band to stand out in the mix with their respected instruments, while still crafting a cohesive sound. While David Lovering's drums sounded a bit larger than life and huge in the mix on Surfer Rosa,
they're better blended into the sound this time around. Kim Deal's groovy bass work is always audible in the mix and always beautifully interplaying with Black Francis' often acoustic rhythm guitar work. Joey Santiago's bendy and in your face guitar playing is what really takes the songs over the top. Santiago's guitar playing is very reserved, and he seems to always know the perfect time to throw in lick or riff to propel the song into greatness. The perfect example of this is the subtle guitar solo in the middle of "Hey" that's easily one of the greatest solos of all time. Pixies really hit their stride musically on Doolittle,
with the instrumentation managing to stand out without being flashy, and most importantly work as a whole.
Pixies are a pretty weird band to put it lightly, and Black Francis' vocals and lyrics are the main reason. Black Francis' roaring vocal delivery elegantly matches up with his biblical inspired and often surrealist lyrics. Songs like "Dead" and "I Bleed" almost sound like the audio equivalent of a David Lynch film: all over the place, but some how make perfect sense. Only a Pixies record could have a track about an underwater God sandwiched between a song about pollution and a song about a crazy Puerto Rican roommate. Pixies are famous for their loud/quiet/loud dynamic, and a lot of it has to do with Black Francis' wide range of vocal styles. The perfect example of this style is the classic closer "Gouge Away," which starts off with a simple bass line and chanty whispering vocals by Black Francis, which then explodes into a ferocious yell over blaring guitar chords in the chorus, and then goes right back into the low register sound in the second verse. Pixies original sound and quirks make Doolittle an engaging and weird listen that never ceases to amaze.
There's no better way to describe Doolittle's
greatness than to just simply state that it's 39 minutes of classic track after classic track. From the fast past romp that is "Debaser," to the oddly poppy sing along "Here Comes Your Man," to the hard hitting emotions of "Monkey Gone To Heaven" and "Hey," Doolittle
never lets up, never falters for even a second, never once sounds uninspired and has absolutely zero filler. Doolittle
is the epitome of consistency, the benchmark for alternative rock, and more personally, an album that means a hell of a lot to me.