A repeating, thumping sort of bass riff begins Doolittle’s first track, “Debaser”. A lean guitar riff crashes in, and shortly thereafter, a sort of surfer-rock riff on a second guitar. The opening track to the greatest of the Pixies albums is a movie recommendation. “Got me a movie, I want you to know”, howls Black Francis. Only the Pixies, perhaps, could make something so innocuous sound for furious and desperate. Of course, most bands don’t write songs about movies with girls cutting their eyeballs with razors. Pixies weren’t most bands, though.
The next track, “Tame”, is a hot nightmare. The song has a distorted, shuffling beat, and Black Francis is whispering the lyrics during the verse. It’s tense and taught, until with the single word chorus, with Francis screaming out the song title, and everything explodes. After the second verse, this scream repeats and increases in intensity, becoming hard breathing, with bassist Kim Deal offering backup harmonies for Francis’ breath, until Francis explodes with screaming again.
That’s the Pixies’ signature move: taught, quiet verses, and explosive screaming choruses.
The first two singles to come from this album were “Here Comes Your Man”, and “Monkey Gone to Heaven”. The former track recalls almost a Joe Johnson kind of sound. Perhaps the Pixies’ most pop-oriented song, with it’s call-and-response prechorus and its sing-along chorus, it’s a gem of a song, and an unusual tune for the Pixies.
“Monkey Gone to Heaven” starts out in a similarly pop vein, albeit with a more desolate sound. After a couple of verses of abstract environmental warnings, the final bridge appears, crescendoing with Black Francis howling “If the devil is six/then God is seven/then God is seven/then God is seven!”
The next track is among the Pixies best tracks. “Mr. Grieves” starts with a slow, almost reggae guitar riff, laden with distortion. Black Francis cries out, warbly, “Hope everything is alright/what’s the floatin’ in the water/old Neptune’s only daughter” when the song jumps the tempo and launches into a whirling sort of apocalyptic myth about life and death.
The Pixies are often considered, with good reason, one of the cornerstones of contemporary indie music, as well as the biggest influence on the grunge era of the 1990s. An absolute masterpiece of punk music.