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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pixies: Doolittle (IAS #16)

A long-time favorite finally revisited for this week's IAS update:

Pixies: Doolittle

12 comments:

  1. This review makes for a nice pairing with the Cardiacs' Sing to God review (I'm neither here nor there with the Cardiacs as I've never heard anything by them). Interesting that they came up the same week.

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    1. Not out to argue with you, just curious what you mean by "a nice pairing." Like love & hatred? Respect & contempt? Yin & yang? Those kinds of pairings?

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    2. Nice was probably the wrong word. Anyway he approaches both albums as dense post-modern works one of which he loves and the other not so much. If you read the Doolittle review right after the StG review it almost comes across as a riposte: "THIS is how you do post-modern!"

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    3. I think I get what you mean. The contrast between the two album reviews was striking/revealing to me as well.

      I didn't cloy myself out on The Cardiacs' early stuff the way George had done. But I've been checking in with SING TO GOD occasionally; and the more of its structures I get familiar with, the more at a loss I am for why George's review was so scathing. This is a man who can appreciate the unique value of The Residents, for god's sake! I think popping the inflated "masterpiece" balloon is totally fair, but once that's done, there's still a very singular work of psychedelic rock art to contend with. Key word: contend.

      The Pixies--bless their sweet souls--borrow enough traditional rock & pop hooks & cookery that they go down pretty darn easy by comparison. I think that's why one tweak of their style blew Nirvana to the top of popular charts. Our radio-trained ears have an easier time accessing them patterns.

      Right now I like and respect both albums, but I can tell that SING TO GOD isn't done with me.

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  2. I remember bringing Doolittle tape to summer camp where I worked as a counselor some 20 years ago. From that time the album is associated in my mind with summer and everything fun. Still, my favourite work by the Pixies has always been Trompe le Monde, which sounds to me as one tight rock opera. It is less strange, but melodies seem better and it is more cohensive.
    Nevertheless, Doolittle is a brilliant album, brimming with great ideas, maybe slightly underdeveloped.

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  3. I wouldn't be in much of a hurry to track down the expanded version. I don't have it, but I did buy the B-side collection that came out years ago and was unimpressed. Some hasty, sloppy re-recordings of album tracks, some meh cover songs, and originals that were clearly inferior to what made it onto their albums. A pity, but I guess hoping for good B-sides is asking a bit much anyway.

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  4. Fun review and a pleasure to read as always. Just one comment: the Pixies were truly original, but they didn't really come out of nowhere as much as you say - Husker Du were a huge musical influence, from Bob Mould's scream to the marriage of pure melody, punk anger and noise.

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    1. Husker Du is still a hardcore punk band in its core though and most of their songs are still in the fuzzy punk-hardcore overdrive.

      I'd say the Minutemen have that 'let it go' mentality though going over a wide variety of musical directions in their 43 song masterpiece Double Nickels two years before the Pixies started. And honsetly I think the Minutemen are better musicians, coming up with better songs and more creative songwriting / jamming (never letting an idea last for too long) with only the 3 men combo.

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  5. Great review George, seriously one of your best. Po-mo pop, i love your explanation even if i generally find the oh-so-ironic cultural overdose stance obnoxious and absolutely hate Quentin Tarantino's empty flicks.

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  6. My first exposure to these guys was while watching the third season of Covert Affairs, which used their song titles to name the episodes that year (following Zeppelin and Bowie). Then we rented Daddy's Home and the opening credits had this pretty song about boxcars and I thought, "That's nice, where have I heard that before." Most of the rest of the album didn't impress me too much, but I do appreciate the brevity of the songs, they don't beat the horse to death. Thompson's lyrics certainly influenced 90s bands' ironic metaphor mania. And I hear a lot of Cobain's off-key wailing in his singing. The one song that connected with me viscerally was No. 13 Baby, for obvious reasons. Yo gusto Las Lomas, lo siento.

    As for pop culture overload, the previous paragraph should explain my empathy for Black Francis' paranoia. But I'm too benumbed by this point to get angsty about it. Thanks for the review!!

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  7. Love this one.

    One of 3 late 80's albums/bands that were key in fusing classic hard rock with post-punk idealism to create something altogether more visceral, fresh ... a changing of the old alternative guard. The other 2 being Janes Addiction - Nothing's Shocking and Faith No More - The Real Thing.

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  8. Hi! :)

    I, infamously, have never much cared for this band or this album, and its random absurdism. But your (very postive) review here more or less gave me relief.

    It repeats all the criticisms I have of the Pixies and all they represent, AND my grudging appreciation of their main positive (namely, causing the real beginning of alternative, as opposed to merely "post-punk", rock). You just appreciate the latter more, and consider the former less glaring. Fair enough.

    For the record, I've since learned to appreciate the entertainment value of this album a lot more by re-ordering the songs. It angers fans, AND makes the album sound better. (It is truly amazing how re-ordering a track list can raise one's appreciation of any antipathy-inducing classic album by two letter grades. It causes less effort than an hour of wasted time.)

    By the way, I'd highly recommend other people in my situation, with any band, genre, or album, to do the same. Any genre or album you're not much into can metamorphose into the greatest thing since sliced Dylan with a little shuffle. It is truly the way to horizon-broadening, in all walks of life. Black Francis himself would approve, I assume.

    In any case, I'd also like to point out that "combining gut-level, poppy enjoyability with gratuituous (or not so gratuitous?) cultural references, an ability to sound tremendously emotionally engaged and morally abstinent at the same time, and a crazy excited whirlwind that can suck in just about anything that happens to make its way past your window" sums up the Nineties' paradigm better than just about anything I could come up with. And regardless of my bad attitude, it sums up this album's utility to a tee. Random absurdist intentionally off-key singing and all.

    P.S.: Just so we're clear, this band is interesting. I like what they did to music, and I think Black Francis is a genuine talent with much of a legacy. Otherwise I wouldn't bother commenting, snarkily.

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