A Look Back The Pixies' 'Doolittle' 25 Years Later

04/21/2014
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(Radio.com) Radio.com's Brian Ives takes a look back on the Pixies' 1989 classic album, 'Doolittle,' which turned 25 last Friday. Kurt Cobain always used his popularity to bring attention to the lesser-known bands that influenced him. Nirvana may have lived on the top of the pop charts, but to quote the Replacements, they spent their time on the "left of the dial." One of the bands they name-dropped most, and were most influenced by, was the Pixies, who practically set the template for Nirvana's loud/quiet/loud dynamic.

"I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies," Cobain told Rolling Stone for a 1994 cover story. "I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily, I should have been in that band - or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."

"The loud/quiet/loud dynamic isn't just within individual songs," says Matt Sebastian, the curator and creator of the excellent blog Slicing Up Eyeballs, which celebrates the legacy of '80s college, modern and indie rock. "It's also a pretty good metaphor for the mix of music on the record, sliding between ear-pleasing pop like 'Here Comes Your Man' and 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' and [frontman] Black Francis barking on 'Tame' or 'Crackity Jones,' then on to something like 'Hey' that manages to combine the two."

"A lot of people, obviously, bought that record on the strength of 'Here Comes Your Man,'" Sebastian tells Radio.com. "I lived in Southern California at the time, and that single got heavy airplay on KROQ, and they opened for the Cure at Dodger Stadium that year. They were definitely a darling of commercial alternative radio and 120 Minutes. When you play the record, it seems, especially in retrospect, to be pretty accessible."

When you listen to "Here Comes Your Man," you can almost hear it as a country-pop hit of the Garth or Travis variety. On the other hand, you wouldn't confuse it with the pop music of '89 (Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Poison and Milli Vanilli surely weren't sweating Doolittle).

"I think anyone whose entry point was 'Here Comes Your Man' was in for a surprise," Sebastian says. "That's a pretty simple, sweet pop song. But it is, to some degree, an anomaly on that record. Quite a leap from songs like 'Dead.'"

The weirder and more abrasive songs, like "Dead," "Debaser" and "Tame" were more indicative of Doolittle's sound. Still, with multi-platinum albums full of loud, jagged, guitars by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, just around the corner, why wasn't the album a bigger hit? To this day, it has only been certified gold by the RIAA, for sales in excess of 500,000. More.

Radio.com is an official news provider for antiMusic.com.
Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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