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Pixies "Doolittle" - Retrospective Review

Updated: May 20, 2023

10/10

With sounds of insanity, anxiety, and dark surrealism, Doolittle was exactly the perfect album to end the 80's and set the stage for the golden age of alternative rock beginning in the 90's. For the second Pixies studio album, the crew meshed together all sorts of sounds seemingly sounding as if they wanted the record to be kept as far from radio as possible missing all of the boxes a rock band must check for radio-play, yet they seemingly did it deliberately, and perhaps even more so than they did on their debut Surfer Rosa. The end product showcased what makes the genre of alternative rock as expansive and sonically interesting as it is as you never quite know what you're going to get. Here you have songs which are made for the artists, the fans and NOT made for the finite bounds of airwaves, and at the end of the 80's that was a road infrequently traveled with radio as the means of delivering your product. With a swift swing of reverb-laced weirdness and creativity, Pixies left us with a record which aged like fine wine influencing countless artists like Nirvana, Radiohead, Weezer and Pavement.

Guitar forward, reverb filled riffs set the groundwork for much of what alternative and indie rock bands of the 90s gravitated towards in their music with much of that spilling over into the 2000's with groups like The Strokes, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. All of this as well as the dramatic loud to soft dynamic changes were not only popularized by Pixies on this record but reinvented in a much darker an independent manner. Tame captures the soft to aggressively loud dynamic with Black Francis belting out the chorus and the band turning it down to a whisper in the verses. Creative and nonconformist dissonant guitar work by Joey Santiago on Tame exemplify the unique sound of Pixies and the urge to take the road less traveled from the melodically pleasing and easy listening sounds popular at the time. This same dynamic difference is heard nearly on every song on the album, especially No. 13 Baby and I Bleed.


Although Doolittle encapsulates weirdness and uncommon stylistic musical arrangements, jangly and danceable guitar licks can still be heard on the more accessible tracks like Hey and the iconic Here Comes Your Man. Tracks like these two are what perhaps makes this their most welcoming and accessible record and ought to be the one a listener unfamiliar with Pixies starts with. Here Comes Your Man finds itself as a the lone "pop-friendly" track on the record with its simple chord progression and groovy double tracked guitar line by Joey Santiago. A simple, yet masterful song with catchy and clever lyrics of a traveling hobo. This song along with Monkey Gone to Heavan found a lot of love from college radio in 1989 and into the 90's being played alongside Siouxsie and the Banshees, R.E.M, and The Cure, helping build the cult like following of Pixies and get the songs into the ears of new, unfamiliar listeners. An important step for the long-lasting lifespan of Doolittle and its impact.


Deeper cuts on the record like Silver and There Goes My Gun feature more of the weirdness of Pixies in all the right ways from the slow 3/4-time haunting guitar solo in Silver to the "Friend is Foe" room-filling, catchy yelling on There Goes My Gun. With all of its creativity, dynamic contrast, biblical expression, and overall dark lyrical nature, Doolittle finds itself as a rare, mere-flawless LP ranking in the top 10 from many publications from NME to Pitchfork. An authentic mesh of a wide array of sounds expressing all sort of emotion and musical motifs made Doolittle like a book, with each song being a chapter of a story making up a greater collective, leaving listeners thinking, what was that, and why was it so good? The influence of Doolittle lives on through indie and alternative bands today and what a perfect record of contrast to end a decade of a lot of overproduction and bubblegum pop. With some help from The Smiths, R.E.M, The Cure and a handful of others, Doolittle was the slingshot for the golden age of alternative rock to follow.


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