Strange as Ever
On the 25th anniversary of its release, The Pixies’ Doolittle, sounds as strange as ever – albeit, for a couple different reasons. The odd talk singing, the punk screaming and the goofy lyrics have always been, and still are, weird. What is so weird about this re-release however, is that it sounds as if it was recorded today. Doolittle has been such a vastly influential album that the sound still sounds fresh and edgy. When you remember that the album was first released in 1989, you’re inclined to take a step back and recognize just how progressive this album truly was.
There is no sense in adding anything into the already massive pile of reviews of the album, but because it’s worth mentioning, “Debaser”, with its direct references to a similarly groundbreaking work (Dali and Bunuel’s surrealist film, Un Chien Andalou), remains one of the most exciting opening tracks of any album recorded in the past 25 years. But that’s neither here nor there, you already knew that. What’s new in this release is the inclusion of B-sides, demos, and studio sessions. The B-sides include both alternate versions of songs included on the album and songs that didn’t make the cut. Just because they didn’t make the cut doesn’t mean these songs are in any way less worthy of your time than the album suggests. “Manta Ray” is among the more straightforward of the tracks on this release, with an ear worm chorus and goofy little vocal turns. Even though it’s straightforward, it still retains all of the frenetic energy you would expect from a Pixies song. It sounds as if it is constantly teetering off the rails, and during the final chorus, while Paz Lenchantin repeats “my manta ray’s alright” and lead singer Black Francis screams in the background, it finally does. “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” finds the band at their most subdued and melodic – displaying that beneath all the craziness, there’s a great deal of musical talent operating and making everything click.
The demo tapes are also enjoyable. There is some new material here, but more interesting are the demo versions of album tracks. Each demo, – incredibly lo-fi – sounds like a live performance. The tracks jump out of the speaker and bash you in the face – this is The Pixies at their most energetic. It’s remarkable how much they had to tone the demos down to make them palatable on the album (“There Goes My Gun” from the Peel Session, which starts with a loud high tempo drum beat, is far more in your face than the version that eventually made it onto the album).
All that being said, this release really only holds interest for die hard Pixies fans. The album itself is timeless, but all the demos and B-sides only serve to illuminate that fact; something that, by this point, should be self evident.