If you want to plot a classic rise and fall pattern in the career of a band, look no further than the Pixies. This middle album, third of five, is the pinnacle of their noise equation: taut, terrifying and tightly edited, these 15 tracks (best known: "Monkey Gone To Heaven"; best quality, the insane "Debaser"; or the predatory "Hey") have the confidence that was missing from Come On Pilgrim
and Surfer Rosa
, but without the bloated pomp of Bossanova
or Trompe Le Monde
. Black Francis, as Charles Thompson IV was known then, surfs fast with his and Joey Santiago's guitars, tempered by the groundswell of Kim Deal's fine bass and counter vocals. It is like the last stand of US indie-dom: intelligent music encased in its precious, intricate and trademark Vaughn Oliver sleeve. Charlie Porter
If anything is likely to make you feel old, it's the grim realisation that some of your favourite ever records are over 20 years old. Take, for example, Pixies' Doolittle. Originally released in April 1989, it came in a year which had already given us New Order's Technique, Lou Reed's New York and was about to unleash astonishing debuts from both The Stone Roses and Soul II Soul alongside The Cure's last fully good album, Disintegration. A vintage year indeed.
Now 20 years on, Doolittle's power and influence has barely been beaten. It was this album that inspired Kurt Cobain's vision for Nirvana, created the quiet/loud dynamic that Mogwai owe a career to, had everyone from Bowie to Radiohead, Blur to PJ Harvey awestruck and when they reformed - one of the first to do so in the last few years before it got silly - it was Doolittle that many middle-aged indiepeople were wanting to hear and howl and scream along to.
It's not hard to see why. After building themselves a nice reputation on the back of their 'proper' debut, Surfer Rosa, it was Doolittle that took them from being fawned over in Melody Maker into the actual charts to become one of 4AD's biggest successes of that time. With the key singles Monkey Gone To Heaven and Here Comes Your Man, Black Francis had distilled death, horror, whores, biblical imagery and undersea myths into a succession of short sharp chunks of immense catchiness. The unearthly howls of Debaser and Dead; the calm dead-eyed destroyer of Wave Of Mutilation; the warped southern soul of Hey; the controlled abandon and angles that Joey Santiago coaxed from his guitar throughout. Even drummer David Lovering got a song with La La Love You. And that's not to mention that the very presence of Kim Deal - a year away from inventing The Breeders - on this album consolidated her position as one of the coolest women on Earth.
There is little flab or room for negotiation with Doolittle, its 15 tracks could be released now and still wipe the floor of many of late noughties efforts. It's as perfect today as it was back then. Genuinely amazing. --Ian Wade
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