Elektra, 1989

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally reached a decision when it comes to the ongoing debate over the groundbreaking alt-rockers: Surfer Rosa or Doolittle? Sure, Surfer Rosa has the one-two punch of “Gigantic” and the dreamy distortion of “Where Is My Mind?,” but on the whole, Doolittle is one of those albums that just flows from start to finish, the barely 40-minute runtime skipping by in a flash of stabbing guitars and unbridled, powerful energy.

The Pixies (featuring the formidable double team vocals of Frank Black and bassist Kim Deal, as well as Joey Santiago and David Lovering on guitars and drums, respectively) were brilliantly adept at dissolving the boundaries between abrasive punk and warm pop hooks, creating their own genre-bending blend that would pave the way for the impending grunge revolution. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Doolittle, the band’s follow-up to its 1988 debut Surfer Rosa, launches straight out with “Debaser,” a raucous ode to surrealism whose lyrics name-check the infamous eyeball-slicing of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s film Un chien andalou. Black’s frenetic shriek is backdropped by slashing guitars, pounding drums and Deal’s hypnotic, almost ethereal backing vocals, all coming together to create a propulsive, bizarrely unique opener.

“Debaser’s” frenetic beat is followed by the eerie, uncontained “Tame,” which veers back and forth between tensely whispered portions and an aggressive, screeching chorus before suddenly cutting off after just two minutes.

Shifting from eyeballs and “Tame”’s Cinderella-hipped women, “Wave Of Mutilation” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” are meditations on the mythology of the marine, described by Black as “a big organic toilet.” In “Wave,” failed Japanese businessmen launch themselves into the ocean backed by dynamic instrumentation and an almost jaunty chorus. Meanwhile, “Monkey” is all distorted riffs and deranged vocalization, featuring this time “an underwater guy who controlled the sea/got killed by ten million pounds of sludge.”

 A further study in absolute insanity, “Crackity Jones” introduces a former roommate of Black’s: “Please forgive me, Jose Jones / You need these walls for your own / I’m moving out of this hopedaje / I’m afraid you’ll cut me, boy,” he screeches in this demented riffing on Latin music, an undeniably catchy one-minute explosion of energy.

All the album’s eccentricity -- its lyrics bouncing from the Biblical to the extraterrestrial, the punchy tag team of Black and Deal’s vocals -- is matched nicely by Gil Norton’s clean, warm production, creating an inimitable, brazenly dynamic release that most definitely deserves a prime place in rock history.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra, and is used for informational purposes only.