The Pixies are a band that needs no introduction. Their 1989 album Doolittle has been hailed as a classic, and for good reason. With its unique sound and influence on alternative rock music, the album is an undisputed masterpiece. If you are looking to learn a bit more about the album, read on as our detailed Pixies Doolittle album review will shine some light on meaning behind some of the cryptic lyrics and analyze what sets this album apart from the rest.
About The Pixies
The Pixies are widely considered to be one of the most influential bands in alternative rock music. Hailing from Boston, MA, the band was formed in 1986 and consisted of four members: Frank Black (aka Black Francis) (lead vocals, guitar), Kim Deal (bass, backing vocals), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), and David Lovering (drums). The Pixies’ unique sound and eclectic mix of genres such as surf rock, indie rock, punk rock, psychedelic rock pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in rock music at the time.
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Their music is known for it’s dynamic “loud-quiet-loud” song structure and shifts in time signature, which made them stand out from the crowd.
Earlier Studio Albums – Come On Pilgrim – Surfer Rosa – Doolittle – Bossanova – Trompe le Monde
The Pixies’ first album, “Come On Pilgrim”, was released in 1987 and is a compilation of many early songs they had been writing prior to forming the band. They went on to release another four studio albums before splitting up in the early ’90s : Surfer Rosa (1988), Doolittle (1989), Bossanova (1990), and Trompe le Monde (1991).
About Black Francis
Black Francis is the primary songwriter for the Pixies and is responsible for most of the lyrics on Doolittle. His lyrics often deal with dark subject matter such as death, violence, sex, and mental illness.
Following the breakup of the Pixies in 1993, he started his solo career which included a name change to Frank Black. Under a new label (American Recordings), he formed a new band, Frank Black and the Catholics.
About Kim Deal
Kim Deal is the bassist and backing vocalist for the Pixies. She also shares songwriting duties with Black Francis, and is responsible for writing some of the band’s most popular songs such as “Gigantic” and “Where Is My Mind?”.
Deal left the Pixies in 2013 to focus on her solo career and her other band, The Breeders.
Pixies Reunion and Later Albums
The band later reunited in the early ’00s and provided fans with reunion tours starting in 2004. Later, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Doolittle in 2009, the started a tour doing a track by track show of the album along with b-sides.
Following the tour in 2013, Kim Deal left the band and was temporarily replaced with Kim Shattuck (vocals and guitarist Muffs and Pandoras) and went on to release a new album, Indie Cindy. Shattuck was later replaced by Paz Lenchantin (Entrance, A Perfect Circle) who was later included as a permanent band member in 2016 ahead of the Pixies sixth studio album, Head Carrier.
Pixies Doolittle Album Review
The Pixies’ album Doolittle is widely considered to be a classic in the alternative rock music genre. Released in 1989, when indie underground music was already having a moment (Pixies own Surfer Rosa, Sonic Youth Daydream Nation and Fugazi). The album stood out due to its unique sound and influence on artists and fans alike. With its dynamic “loud-quiet-loud” song structure, shifts in time signature, and eclectic mix of genres, the album was a breath of fresh air in an era where rock music was becoming increasingly stale.
What Makes Doolittle Unique?
There are several things that make Doolittle a unique and classic album. Firstly, the production value is top-notch. It was recorded at a studio in Boston, MA with the help of producer Gil Norton, who had previously worked with Echo & the Bunnymen and The Pretenders.
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Secondly, the songwriting is superb – led by band members Black Francis and Kim Deal, Doolittle provides listeners with a wide range of sounds with just enough hooks to lure you in, from punk rock anthems to psychedelic ballads.
Finally, the album’s influence on later artists cannot be denied; it was one of the first albums to have a clear “alternative rock” sound, and paved the way for a new generation of musicians.
The Lyrical Content of Doolittle
Critics have described the lyrics on Doolittle as being cryptic, obscure, or bizarre. Songs like “Here Comes Your Man” are filled with allusions of a bright and happy love song but underlying lyrics are around death and destruction. But despite the dark subject matter, the Pixies Doolittle lyrics are also filled with a sense of optimism and hope. In “Gouge Away”, for example, the lyric “gonna gouge my eyes out so I don’t see” is immediately followed by the optimistic line “gonna pry off my arms so I can hold you”.
This juxtaposition of light and dark, happiness and sorrow is a common theme throughout the album and is likely what has kept fans coming back to the album for over 30 years.
Some of the Doolittle album track highlights to get a sense of the album flow are:
Right from the opening track of Doolittle we get a sense of the Pixies’ unique sound. “Debaser” is a fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping song with a heavy guitar riff and Black Francis’ signature howl. The lyrics are cryptic and allude to the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. The 1929 short film by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel was an unapologetic visual display of carnage, which would have been considered shocking at the time. Despite its disturbing content, the song is filled with a sense of optimism and has become one of the band’s most iconic songs.
Monkey Gone To Heaven
“Monkey Gone to Heaven” is a song about environmentalism and goes along with other songs on the Doolittle album tackling the topic of climate change. The song mainly deals with humanity’s destruction of the ocean and the consequent decline of the ozone. With oblique references to the destruction of Ozone layers like:
“There was a guy / An underwater guy who controlled the sea / Got killed by ten million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey”
The lyrics are once again cryptic, which has led to much speculation about their meaning. One interpretation is that the monkey in the song represents innocence and how it is being destroyed by humanity’s greed.
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The line “If man is five / Then the devil is six / And if the devil is six / Then God is seven” has become a common mantra for fans and can be heard being sung or chanted at live shows today.
Wave of Mutilation
“Wave of Mutilation” is one of the best examples of the Pixies’ unconventional song structure, which made Doolittle stand out from other albums at the time. With its heavy guitar riff, fast-paced rhythm, and unusual bass line, it’s easy to see why this track has become one of their most popular. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a traveling scuba diver who is going through a “wave of mutilation”. The song is about “Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they’d failed in business, and they’re driving off a pier into the ocean.” according to Black Francis.
Here Comes Your Man
“Here Comes Your Man” is the most successful single off of Doolittle. The song has become a fan favorite and its upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it a perfect pop rock track. The song was actually included in the Pixies auditions for their first record deal and was not intended to be recorded.
Again, another cryptic message is seen in the lyrics. Personally, I always found the meaning of “Here Comes Your Man” centered around the second nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki by a B-29, nicknamed Bockscar. It has been referred to incorrectly as a “Boxcar”… The lyrics fit with the agony of those expecting and waiting for the “man” (in this case bomb) to arrive:
“Outside there’s a box car waiting / Outside the family stew / Out by the fire breathing / Outside we wait till face turns blue”
Later Frank Black concluded the song is about a “Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they’d failed in business, and they’re driving off a pier into the ocean.”
Overall, Doolittle was a groundbreaking album that paved the way for alternative rock music and spawned many imitators over the years. Critics have called it one of the best albums of all time and it’s easy to see why. With its unique sound, cryptic lyrics, and optimistic tone, Doolittle is a classic album that should be in everyone’s collection.
The Sound of Doolittle
The sound of Doolittle is as unique as its lyrics. The album is a perfect blend of genres that creates a sound like no other. From the heavy guitar riffs of “Wave of Mutilation” to the pop sensibilities of “Here Comes Your Man”, the album has something for everyone. The Pixies were able to take elements of punk, surf rock, and alternative and create a sound that would influence a generation of musicians.
The Influence of Doolittle
Doolittle has had a profound influence on alternative rock music. The album’s unique sound and cryptic lyrics have inspired many bands over the years. The Pixies would go on to influence Nirvana, Radiohead, and many other grunge and alternative acts of the 90s. Doolittle is a timeless album that will continue to inspire musicians for years to come.
Production and Sound Quality
One thing that makes Doolittle such a classic is the album’s sound and production. After the success of the Steve Albini produced Surfer Rosa, the label (4AD / Elektra) floated the idea of having him produce Doolittle. The band and label ended up going in a different direction and choose Gil Norton to produce the album.
Producer Gil Norton, who had previously worked with similar artists like Echo and the Bunnymen and Simple Minds. With Norton’s help, Black Francis was able to craft the perfect sound for Doolittle.
The album’s crisp, clean production is what has made it stand the test of time and remain a classic album throughout the years. Whether you’re a fan of the alternative rock genre or just looking to get into the genre, Doolittle is an album that should be in your collection. With its unique sound, catchy lyrics, and classic production, Doolittle is a must-have for any music fan.
Doolittle Album Art and Packaging
The Pixies Doolittle album cover employs grungy, cryptic artwork that matches the songs on the Doolittle album perfectly.
The contrasting straight mechanical lines with the offset numbers and circles shows a preview of the contrasting sounds we are about to hear once we tear the shrink wrap off and crack the album open. The artwork and photography of the Doolttle album was done by Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier. The Pixies Doolittle album art is simple but effective and perfectly represents the sound of the album.
There are numerous releases of Doolittle available on digital, CD and vinyl. See our Pixies Doolittle vinyl shootout to help you choose the best sounding copy of Doolittle for your collection. In the meantime, the 2004 reissue of the Pixies Doolittle LP is readily available for you to grab.
Pixies Doolittle Album Review: A Classic Album
If you’re a fan of alternative rock music, then the Pixies Doolittle album is definitely one that you need in your collection. Released in 1989, the album has been praised by critics and fans alike for its unique sound and influence on alternative rock music. If you’re looking for an album that will stand the test of time, then this is definitely one to check out.
Thanks for reading our Pixies Doolittle review. What do you think of the album, let us know in the comments below.
Below are questions answered along with interesting facts about the Doolittle album by the Pixies.
Why Is the Pixies Album Named Doolittle?
Contrary to popular belief, the song is not about the 1988 movie “Doctor Doolittle”.
The album was originally planned to be titled Whore and this was used as the name while the Pixies recorded the demos at Eden Sound studio in Boston. Along the way Francis changed his mind and went with the title Doolittle. The album title is from the track “Mr. Grieves“. The song includes the lyric “Pray for a man in the middle / One that talks like Doolittle“.
How Long Did It Take the Pixies to Record Doolittle?
The album took a bit under a month (October 31 – November 23, 1988) to record at Downtown Recorders in Boston, MA. The band was able to quickly finish the album and record it in one month, which was a first for the group.
Who Are Some of the Artists That Have Covered Songs From Doolittle?
There has been numerus cover songs performed from the Pixies songs on Doolittle. Some of my favorites are:
TV on the Radio — “Mr. Grieves”
Far — “Monkey Gone to Heaven”
Meghan Smith — “Here Comes Your Man”
Rogue Wave — “Debaser”
What Singles Were Released from Doolittle?
The album had two singles released. The first single, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, was released on March 20, 1989. The second, “Here Comes Your Man”, was released on June 1, 1989. Both did well commercially and on the charts, with “Monkey Gone to Heaven” receiving single of the year awards from numerous publications and later being listed as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.