[Review] Pixies: Doolittle (1989)

You know that voice that tells you to do strange things? This is it singing. Like Surfer Rosa, Doolittle didn’t do a lot for me in the beginning. It’s just so standoffishly strange; Pere Ubu meets Iggy and the Stooges strange. I used to listen to “Here Comes Your Man” and shrug my shoulders at the rest of it. Then I started to hear all the beautiful music in “Mr. Grieves,” “Debaser,” “There Goes My Gun” and “Dead.” Doolittle may be the Bostonians’ most brutal, brilliant record. It’s free, it’s wild, it’s on the edge of everything and dancing like a loon. It’s not as funny as their first full-length record; this is gallows humor sung from the very core of angst. When Black Francis matter-of-factly states that he’ll “sail away on a wave of mutilation,” it’s said with such serenity that you realize how at home he is in the eye of the hurricane. The method to Pixies’ madness is revealed in the opening track, which alludes to the Dali/Brunuel short, “Un Chien Andalou.” That famous film rejected the rational in favor of the grotesque subconscious: the violated body, decay, religious symbolism. The same principle powers Doolittle. You find it most on cuts like “Gouge Away,” “I Bleed” and of course “Debaser.” What really makes it for me though is Black Francis’ power as a preacher for the absurd. When he barks out the lines “I am un chien andalusia” or “if the devil is 6 then God is 7,” it’s like a man possessed by demons. Given how influential this album was, seems the least you can do is listen to it once.

Original LP Version
A1. Debaser (2:52)
A2. Tame (1:55)
A3. Wave of Mutilation (2:42)
A4. I Bleed (2:34)
A5. Here Comes Your Man (3:21)
A6. Dead (2:21)
A7. Monkey Gone To Heaven (2:56)
B1. Mr. Grieves (2:52)
B2. Crackity Jones (1:24)
B3. La La Love You (2:43)
B4. No. 13 Baby (3:51)
B5. There Goes My Gun (1:49)
B6. Hey (3:31)
B7. Silver (Black Francis/Kim Deal) (2:25)
B8. Gouge Away (2:46)

All songs written by Black Francis unless noted.

The Players
Kim Deal (bass guitar, slide guitar on B7), Black Francis (vocals, guitar), David Lovering (drums, lead vocal on B3, bass guitar on B7), Joey Santiago (lead guitar, backing vocals) with Arthur Fiacco (cello), Karen Karlsrud (violin), Corine Metter (violin), Ann Rorich (cello). Produced by Gil Norton; engineered by Gil Norton; mix engineered by Steve Haigler.

The Pictures
Art direction and design by Vaughan Oliver/v23. Photography by Simon Larbalestier.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on April 17, 1989 in the US (4AD/Elektra, 60856), the UK (4AD, CAD/GAD-905CD), Germany (Rough Trade, RTD/RTDCD-106) and Japan (4AD, CY-3531) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #89 on the US charts and #8 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on September 14, 2004 in the US (4AD, CAD 905).
  2. Re-released on remastered super audio compact disc in 2008 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD-2033).
  3. Re-issued on Blu-Ray disc in 2016 in the US (4AD).

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