It's been a long time since I had a guest post on here and this one is nicked directly from my friend Justin's blog. Over at Station to Station Justin has all sorts of music votes in progress which I've been contributing too (never one to pass up the chance of putting things into some sort of order) and his readers recently picked "Doolittle" by the Pixies as a contender for Ultimate Album. There's an extended blog about the Ultimate Album vote HERE which includes my top 5 moments from the same album but I've taken Justin's bit's out for the guest post below.
We decided to give a go at arguably the Pixies' strongest or at least their most consistently loved album Doolittle and give a proper inner Top 5 from the album. I voted for Stevie Wonder this round but I can't deny this 1989 release and its staying power as an album that was a precursor to the alternative explosion that happened in the following decade. And voters agreed. By one point it narrowly took down Wonder's tour de force double album a la kitchen sink and last night's leftover Songs In the Key Of Life. After wrestling with Wonder's shortcoming I quickly lightened up. Why? Because Doolittle is frankly a blast.
5. Gouge Away - As far as closers go, Gouge Away is wonderful for the way it sets the tone for the album that preceded it quite nicely. Musically, Joey Santiago rips through this one on guitar like the world is on fire around him. And Frank Black's lyrics are quite violently disturbing but he delivers them on target being a bit more gentle in the main chorus then getting up to his frantic antics in the verses for extra effect. I've taken Gouge Away as being trapped to something tangible (a drug, a lifestyle, a habit, anything you can't break away from) and being unhappily set in its moribund path of destruction. But further reading for this five shows it's of biblical proportions. Black had written Gouge Away around the story of "Samson and Delilah" which I didn't know previously but makes sense. Do all these things to me (Gouge Away, Break My Arms, Spoon My Eyes...) and I won't break. Unless of course, you cut my hair. If the song ended on that refrain it may have been a bit...corny? Nonetheless, I've got "Gouge Away" at #5...mainly because "Gouge" is a pretty terrifying bad-ass word.
4. Debaser - Well if you told an average Joe "Hey I've got this album you might have not heard and the opening song AND closing song are both about getting your eyes sliced up and gouged" I wonder what his reaction would be? Excitement or Bewilderment? Maybe he asks if you should try a new medication. Cause basically that's the blueprint of "Doolittle" and its bookends. And both songs make my Top 5. Debaser slightly ahead of Gouge Away because Frank sounds like he's having a panic attack. It's on par with Bone Machine for me, the previous album's "Surfer Rosa" opener in that there is this oddball mentality prepared to rip your mind and rock out at its own digression. Lyrically I guess Debaser is simpler (and if you dig French silent films from surrealists from the 1920s, you're in luck here too) and Kim Deal's sweet female counterpoint vocals of the word DEBASER off of Black's snarl of DEBASER is one of my favorite moments on the album. And of course the "slicing up eyeballs" reference. Ha Ho Ho Ho! What a great opener!
3. Tame - Cause there is quite a good amount of 2 minute and under songs on "Doolittle" I feel the need to add one in here and Tame is hands down the cake taker. It's aggressive and a bit mean hearted...but it's in good fun right cookie? The way Black crawls into your space just screaming Tame isn't for the lighthearted but making references to Cinderella's hips and falling on your face in bad shoes, well, that's for the girl you want to see fail because their mean hearted to begin with. And the dynamics of the simple chord progression in Tame was used time and time and time again in any grunge outfit you can count on your hands and toes in the next decade. Also Black's scream is probably on par with any metal vocalist you want to reference. Not one to throw on for your kids because they'd probably feel their father has lost their mind. But for style points if their just at the right age, you'd probably be a genius in their eyes. "Mom, dad's playing that guy screaming "Tame" again! And he's smiling the whole time! I'm, worried!".
2. Monkey Gone To Heaven - This is probably my first memory of the Pixies seeing the video for Monkey Gone To Heaven on 120 Minutes back in my early teen days. It made for a dark and mysterious band at first glance (the black and white video or the whole devil is six, pick one they both fit the bill at the time). But there is a touching side to Monkey Gone To Heaven. There is a more conscious environmental flow and spiritual side to Monkey Gone To Heaven. First off, the under water guy who got killed by ten millions pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey. What bastards we are as humans to kill Neptune with our sludge! Also mentioned is the hole in the sky which I imagine was the first talks of what we're doing to the hole in the ozone layer back in '89. I may not recycle as much as I want to should, but Monkey Gone To Heaven does a great deal in wanting me to help our Earth. (As Jim Morrison drunkenly mumbled "What have we done to our fair sister?") And now that the environmental part of the song is out of the way a quick tip of the hat again to Santiago for crafting a guitar line that matches the mood perfectly. And Deal again works the bittersweet side vocals to Black who is much more subdued for most of the song. Of course he can't help himself by the time "Then GOD IS SEVEN" comes round near the end. Most people think of Monkey as the number song but there is much more here when you dig deeper...there's even cellos for goodness sake.
1. Wave Of Mutilation - Leave it to my pop sensibility again, I love Wave Of Mutilation the most on "Doolittle". It's like a slap across the face with cold water on a July day. Sure there's nothing refreshing about driving your car into the ocean (a reference to failed Japanese businessman's answer to failed business deals) but it somehow pulls off a romantic feel to it in that chorus. Something about just being on a wave with Santiago upping the feeling playing that guitar a bit off from the rest of the song for extra punctuation. Can any Wave Of Mutilation have a good ending to it? No way. But the Pixies make that wave feel right somehow, Black's crunchy rhythm guitar leading the way in the verse to a seaport mariana. Yeah, that's where we'd all like to ride to sometime. Even if it is one defined by mutilation. It's slightly better than slicing up eyeballs, a little more refreshing than being referred to as 5 and a top notch song from an ultimate album.