Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Got hips like Cinderella"

#8 Doolittle, Pixies, 4AD, 1989

In 1996 I had a collision with the Pixies. My roommate and I lived beside a dynamic duo who refused to play anything other than the Pixies and so, day and night, eccentric rock with a latin flair and a deranged frontman seeped through our walls and traversed our halls...kind of like the words of the prophets. But not quite. I distinctly remember hearing about the Pixies in high school as influences on Nirvana but I didn't hear their music until the second week of my freshman year when what I thought was a track from a current hardcore screamo band erupted from our next store neighbor's room. When I inquired, I was informed the band was the Pixies and the track was "Tame," which, if you've never heard it, is pretty damn attention-grabbing. While I didn't get to borrow the record that was playing (it was Doolittle), I did get Trompe Le Monde out of the bargain (it's my second favorite Pixies record) and over the course of the next few weeks wore out tracks like "Planet of Sound," "UMass," and perennial favorite "Alec Eiffel," which graced Side 2 Track 1 of my first mixtape of my second semester of my freshman year ("Alec Eiffel" is still one of my favorite Pixies song). My interest in the Pixies waned with my interest in punk and Nirvana, however, when both my relationship with Sarah and her folk tendencies and my desire to really get to know The Beatles put all modern rock on the backburner for a time. Fast forward to 2001 and I discovered a used copy of Doolittle at Radiofree Records. Dear reader, suffice it to say the love was back or, dare I say, Black. Though it barely made it in the '80s, coming out as it did in '89, Frank Black and his players present a powerful composition that could very well be the best record of that decade. Fifteen tracks of pure pop energy with punk sensibility get the juices flowing, beginning with the sweet bass lick and guitar hook of "Debaser" and ending similarly with the menacing "Gouge Away." Black's ability to ratchet up the drama with his ridiculous vocal range is complimented perfectly by Breeders co-founder Kim Deal's bass lines and background vocals. Drummer David Lovering sets the standard for pre-"alternative" drummers pretty high and lead guitarist Joey Santiago beckons more licks than a Tootsie Pop. The lyrics are generally far beyond any kind of narrative interpretation, but the self-loathing of both "Wave of Mutilation" and "Gouge Away" are pretty pointed - Frank Black was (and is) a disturbed musical genius. But he can also be playful, as evidenced by the light pop of "Here Comes Your Man" and "La, La, Love You" or the buffoonery of "Mr. Greives" or "Crackity Jones." But my favorite song on the record and my favorite Pixies song period is "Monkey Gone to Heaven." There's something about the haunting cellos, Deal's background emoting, and Black's metaphysical math that I love: "If man is 5, then the devil is 6, and if the devil is 6 then God is 7." I don't know what it means Frank, but I never understood the Trinity either.


daniel said...

nice pick. i didn't know the pixies had a video, and frankly (pun intended, though not very clear), i'm surprised it's so dull.

did someone toss this together w/out their permission or something? i figured they'd have some wacked out video for that song with disturbing visuals that had nothing to do with monkeys, the devil, or heaven.

guess that's why mama always said not to think.

in other news--i know you guys sold your nc house forever ago, but i have a question. did you sell by owner? if so, got any tips?

Big Cougar said...


It is a boring video - most of their videos that I have seen are that way which, as you rightly note, is odd for their style. We did sell a house in NC, but not by owner. We had a real short time to sell it before we moved so we bit the bullet and took the realtor percentage hit. Are you guys staying in Chatanooga?

daniel said...

yeah, it's chatttown 4ever. i mean, all our family is here, stuff is cheap, and old friends are slowly seeping back to their we get to say "i told you so" all the time.

who'd want to move? i've had delusions where i think i'm ready to skip town and all that jazz, then i end up talking w/ my father in-law about freelancing out of his art studio and living down the street from them so jess and i can go on a date while they babysit, and there's a certain draw to that--you know?

i don't know...our country has become so fragmented. i don't really want to become part of that--though it is something i have to fight now and again. but where would i go? what would i do? who would i meet? and why?

so i'm here in chattanooga, a town that i've been in since birth (with a 4-year hiatus 4 hours down the interstate), and i'm content.

and i'm also still trying to comprehend the holy spirit. as you know, you don't know how much you don't know until you have to teach it. attempting to explain the scriptures to a 3-year-old girl and a soon-to-be-one-year-old girl makes me think a bit more than i should at this stage in my christian walk, but it is good.

where did that come from?

take care...