Pixies’ 'Doolittle' at 25: Classic Track-by-Track Review

Pixies Doolittle

There are some cult classics that could have been hits, and then there are albums like “Doolittle.” Released 25 years ago today, the sophomore effort from wily Boston space cadets Pixies was never going to shift major units, and the fact that it spent two weeks at No. 98 on the Billboard 200 is some kind of miracle. Sweet and melodic in spots, absolutely brutal in others, it’s the cryptic record about death and god that Black Flag and the Ventures might make should they ever find themselves on the same interstellar pleasure cruise. It’s brilliant, and it’s not for everyone. But in the pre-Nirvana alternative rock world of 1989, the album was heralded as a landmark -- a release that inspired and ultimately helped pave the way for a slew of bands that would become arena-filling, chart-topping megastars in the mid-'90s.

One guy who famously dug it was Kurt Cobain, and as Nirvana fans well know, the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic shifts found all over “Doolittle” set the template for much of “Nevermind.” Kurt’s affinity for this record has become a big part of its story, but the other subplots are just as interesting. In their prime, Pixies were like a freaky alt-rock version of the Fantastic Four, and here, their powers combine in some truly bizarre ways.

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Up front, you’ve got Thing-like singer and rhythm guitarist Black Francis, a wordy, worldly bellower with apocalyptic visions and a colorful way of interpreting the bible. To his right, there’s lead guitarist Joey Santiago, the Silver Surfer in search of new sounds to devour. Over there is bassist Kim Deal, the Not-Quite-Invisible Woman, whose plodding eighth notes and sugary background vocals give so many of these songs their much-needed smidgeon of prettiness. Behind her is Dave Lovering, a Human Torch of a drummer who secretly wants to sing groaner love ballads in airport bars.

If “Doolittle” were a movie, it’d be a Marvel summer blockbuster directed by David Lynch. Thankfully, it’s an album—a one-of-a-kind masterpiece Pixies never quite matched. Scroll down to read our track-by-track review.

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