The Pixies' Doolittle
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The Pixies' Doolittle (33⅓ #31)

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The Pixies have had a career unlike any other in alternative rock,
disappearing as not-quite-the-next-big-things only to become gods in
absentia. Doolittle is their knotty masterpiece, the embodiment of the
Pixies abrasive, exuberant, enigmatic pop. Informed by exclusive
interviews with the band, Sisario looks at the making of the album and
its place in rock history, and studie...more
Paperback, 127 pages
Published March 8th 2006 by Bloomsbury Academic
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33⅓
13th out of 113 books — 36 voters


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Sam Quixote
Music critic Ben Sisario takes a look at The Pixies’ 1989 record Doolittle, a masterpiece of rock music from one of the most interesting and influential bands of all time. In just 120 pages, Sisario manages to introduce us to the band members, how the band was formed, their influences, how the album was recorded, the subsequent years to follow, their breakup, their legacy, and their reformation, as well as a thorough breakdown of each individual track - it’s pretty impressive for a relatively sh...more
A
Dec 07, 2009 A rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: read-2009
FINALLY. I'm sorry, but anyone who has ever read any of the books in the Continuum 33 1/3 series knows they are almost without fail major, major disappointments -- an exorbitant $13 (!) for a steaming pile of skidmark-scented pretension written by a fourth-rate music blogger wanking off and off and off until they start chafing in the most obscure, uninteresting, and unbearable way possible. Really Continuum? Did the world really need an entire book (or even a full sentence) about Throbbing Grist...more
Lindsay
These 33 1/3 books make me kind of scared because I always think they are going to change the way I listen to albums I really like, and so, it being one of my all-time favorite records and all, I approached the Doolittle book with caution. Hearing Doolittle for the first time when I was 15 was such a monumentally formative experience that I still remember what I was wearing that day, for cryin out loud. And I didn't really want some half-baked rock journalist destroying the mystique that still s...more
Suzie
Sisario's book on The Pixies Doolittle is mixed. There's a general history of the band, and some comments on the prior and subsequent albums which takes up over half of the book. The remaining portion, most of which is on the individual songs includes too much lyrical analysis by Sisario. If you care enough to read a whole book on an album, you will probably have spent more than enough time on this yourself... plus which Sisario's take isn't really that interesting, deep, or entertaining. The no...more
Carol
Aug 06, 2012 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
This short book is another in the 33 1/3 series. Sisario takes a very journalistic approach to Doolittle, getting most of the material for the book from interviews conducted with three out of the four members of The Pixies, with a particular concentration on Black Francis (aka Charles Thompson).
Sisario covers the band's history, focusing on the years up through Doolittle's 1989 release. He provides a lot of information on the process of writing and recording the songs, and provides some really i...more
Dusty Henry
Ben Sisario has a style that's both scholarly and zine-like, changes between the two on a dime. It caught me off guard at first but then I found it to be a welcome change from pretentious, self-indulgent writing. He's very much a no bullshit writer, making him a great fit to cover the Pixies.

He give great imagery of riding along with Black Francis. It'd be easy to be a fan-boy and geek out (I mean, riding along with Black Francis in his Cadillac while listening to "Doolittle"...come on) but Sis...more
Andrew
More than other entries in the 33 1/3 series, this one feels a bit like a padded magazine article. There are multiple dull stretches where Sisario repeats himself ad nauseum about the influence of Surrealism on Thompson's lyrics or about the "sex and death vibes" that permeate the recordings. His sometimes slangy prose is also annoying at times. The book also suffers a bit from relying too much on repetitive, none-too-illuminating interviews with the band members. As anyone who's seen the docume...more
Brad
I now understand what the other reviewers meant by saying this book is like an extended magazine article.

Sisario's book lacks objectivity, speaking matter-of-factly about arguments it assumes and acting as though the Pixies were the only band to influence anything that followed. (Their dynamic volume/intensity choices of loud-quiet-loud has been heralded by musicians as influential, but being willfully oblivious to the other influences does not aid the argument of the Pixies' importance.) Sure t...more
Byron
Essentially an overlong NY Times arts section piece on the making of Doolittle, from around the time the Pixies had gotten together and started raking in that $$$ playing festivals. But the chick bass player, who might still be on drugs, didn't want to contribute, and the other three members of the group all sound like they moved on with their lives. Frank Black doesn't seem to be able to recall much from that era, and it doesn't sound like it's because he's still pissed at the chick bass player...more
Patrick McCoy



Doolittle by Ben Sisario is yet another winner in the Continuum 33 1/3 series. It contains band history, an extended interview with Black Francis. Thus, the references and interpretation of his surrealistic songs are given a lot of analysis. We learn about the formation of the band and the context of the alternative rock scene they helped create, their influence on a generation of bands (including Nirvana), the rising problems between the egos of Black Francis and Kim Deal, the recording session...more
Corey Vilhauer
Excerpt from What I've Been Reading - December 2008

"Ben Sisario’s Doolittle struck a similar chord [as Dan LeRoy's Paul's Boutique:]. Instead of a straight forward history, Sisario went driving with Pixies front man Frank “Black Francis” Black, a rambling remembrance of one of indie rock’s most famous groups and albums. I didn’t see behind the curtain as much as into the living room of a “dysfunctionally brilliant” family.

After finishing one of the books, I’d find myself obsessed for days with t...more
Aaron Talbot
a fantastic and engaging read, mostly focused on Charles Thompson (aka black francis, aka frank black)...nostalgic to read and like Gina Arnold's "exile in guyville," i learned new things about the songs, album, and time during which they were created...and I immediately listened to the album again...
Jonathan
This was the first "33 1/3" books I've read ("In Utero", "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", and "Spiderland" are on the docket). I thought it was OK...not distinguished much from a long feature article in Rolling Stone. Some of the trivial details were what made it most interesting to me...for example, that the lyric from "Tame" is "Uriah hit the crapper" instead of the "you are a hippocrapper" that I thought it was...and that "Paco Picopiedra" from "Crackiety Jones" is a reference to Mexican Fred...more
Gabe Durham

There are moments in this book that transcend music journalism and become art itself: My favorite might be the author watching llamas with Frank Black at the end of Ch 3. Like a Pixies song, it's nearly surreal.

I really wish, though, that the author's smirky music journalist asides had been cut, like when he calls Black's admissions of being a dick "ideal 'Behind the Music' dish" that "sells concert tickets." We get it. You're cynical.

Worse is earlier in the book, when he describes college guys'...more
Stefanie
I feel like this book has most fulfilled the promise of the series. Just as music is highly subjective, so is a statement like that one above; for instance, my pal Jeff Johnson would probably argue that the one on Bowie's "Low" really hit it out of the park, but, while I liked that one quite a bit, it was still a little too "verse, chorus, verse" for me--in that case, "here's what Bowie was going through, here's what he did in the studio," rinse, repeat. Sisario's book was written in a flavorful...more
Bill
My second encounter with the 33 1/3 series (the first being The Beatles' Let It Be), I thought this was much more successful, and certainly more enjoyable. Rather than attempting to be some sort of academic deconstruction or historical record, it's just a really long, well-researched magazine article. As off-putting as that may sound, I mean it as a compliment. It's not bogged down with excessive detail or an abundance of technical jargon wankery, it's just the facts - a brief history of the Pix...more
Jonathan
This was my first foray into the 33 1/3 series of books. I did enjoy reading this, but mostly on the level of "I love this album, now tell me how right I am about my musical taste." The author delves into the technical aspects of the making of Doolittle, and also examines the lyrics and the inspiration behind them. He does conduct interviews with the band, but the bulk of them are with Charles Thompson. Quotes from Kim Deal were conspicuously absent, and the rest of the band is only minimally re...more
Brooks
Doolittle is one of my favorite albums of all time and it's kind of weird that I never really got analytical about it. It was just this thing and I loved it and I didn't ever bother to interrogate it. Reading Ben Sisario's book on The Pixies' greatest album cracked the thing open and gave me all sorts of insight into the album and the themes that are explored in the songs.

I have a minor bone to pick with Sisario's style, which felt like it waffled between studious and dangerously loose - but the...more
Monica
"All that is poppy and pretty will meet its raging, deformed reflection, and the twain shall rock on together." Honestly, I don't read much about what I listen to, but this was fantastic. I've always preferred Doolittle to all the other Pixies albums (although some days are just so "Surfer Rosa"), and this little book just confirmed why. If you want to know most things there are to know about this album (note: Kim Deal wouldn't meet with the author to tell her side of the story), I encourage you...more
Douglas Koehne
A very short but interesting book to read dealing with Pixies and their great album Doolittle. Anyone who hasn't ever listened to the Pixies or this album in particular should of course immediately do so. If you already think the Pixies are one of the best bands every, you'll really enjoy getting some inside information on the songs on this album and about the band members. Quick to read, it gives you another layer of information to think about when cranking up the music the next time out.
Brian
i enjoyed this, partly because i enjoy the pixies, but also i just like reading about a very specific time and place event.

i had an ebook of this and it was really poorly done. they used captcha translations for it. for those that don;t know, sometimes when you are asked to type in a word to verify that you are not a spammer or something those words you type in are from a book and the machine uses us to help translate the book.

well, as i said, poorly done.
Lisa
Jun 09, 2009 Lisa rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
(Memoir, Music) Perhaps if I had read this title before Colin Meloy's Let It Be, I would have liked it more. I really enjoyed Meloy's personal narrative and was secretly hoping for something similar. Sisario wrote an interesting piece and I learned a lot about the short yet monumental career of the Pixies. But I missed Kim Deal's input and the book read like a long cover-piece. I recommend this book for diehard Pixies fans.
Dave
A first-rate review of one of my fave records of all time. Sisario taught me a great deal about an album (and a band) I've been listening to for 20 years. My only complaint is that Kim Deal wouldn't talk with him, but that's not his fault. Very readable and engaging, even though the chord descriptions were out of my league.

I've heard that this is the best one of the 33 1/3 series.
Meaghan
Reaffirmed my love of the Pixies. Although I've worked in and loved live music for forever, I've never considered myself a "music geek" -- I don't read artist biographies, I don't need bootlegs of my favorite bands, and I don't obsess about the personal lives of the artists. This book made me see the appeal of obsessing over your favorite band.
Laura Shannon
I found it very interesting despite the fact that it seems a bit repetitive at times. I don't think this is the writer's fault since the band members either give terrible interviews or no interviews at all (Ms. Deal). I still found lots of good insight and back stories but I'd say this is still strictly for true fans of the band.
lilly
So far, I've learned about how surrealism and its focus on unfiltered subconscious imagery made manifest as truth and art influenced "Frank Black" aka Charles Thompson.

Also, did you know that Kim Deal was a married guitar player doctor's receptionist before the Pixies? She'd never played bass before.
Tim
Jan 23, 2009 Tim added it
Shelves: 2009
Another very nice entry in the 33 1/3 series and a really excellent discussion of the lyrics on the album. I could usually give a toss about lyrics, but Sisario offers a great reading of each song. Well worth checking out just for that. The rest of the book is pretty thorough as well.
Liz Gillingham
Doolittle is one of my favorite albums. This book is decently written, although it is much in the vein of a term paper that has been soaked in drool.

I would have appreciated a bit more objectivity, although the conversations with the band members were interesting.
lyndsay ortiz
Apr 30, 2008 lyndsay ortiz rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pixies or deep philosophy fans. Geesh.
I understand the surrealistic inspirations behind Pixies music, the Dada-relevance and such but, geez, this book's author writes like it's his Philosophy Master thesis and last attempt at impressing the professor.

Enough with Breton and get to the rockin'!

Derek Tatum
This is the first book I've read in the 33 1/3 series examining various albums. Pretty nifty examination of the circumstances behind "Doolittle" along with a track by track examination. I need to read the volume on Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures."
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Doolittle Pixies' Doolittle (33 1/3)

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