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The Pixies' Doolittle (33⅓ #31)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  583 Ratings  ·  74 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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Let's Talk About Love by Carl WilsonIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim CooperExile on Main St. by Bill JanovitzDummy by R.J. WheatonDusty in Memphis by Warren Zanes
33⅓
15th out of 114 books — 48 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,056)
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A
Dec 07, 2009 A rated it really liked it
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
Sam Quixote
Nov 24, 2013 Sam Quixote rated it really liked it
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
Lindsay
Dec 30, 2007 Lindsay rated it really liked it
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
Kelly Head
Oct 27, 2015 Kelly Head rated it it was amazing
This might be the best book of the series I have encountered so far. The author, Ben Sisario, does an incredible job of parsing the meaning of this Surrealist masterpiece. I say that it is Surrealist specifically because there are so many references to Dali and Buñuel, which I never caught beyond some of the obvious ones. Furthermore, it treats the Old Testament as a kind of Surrealist work, full of violence, sex, and death. "Uriah hit the crapper," "chained to the pillars," these are references ...more
Adam Edwards
Mar 29, 2016 Adam Edwards rated it really liked it
It's great to get some insight from most of the people behind the album, though the lack of input from Kim Deal is a huge shame. The access to the rest of the band is this book's selling point, really, particularly the interviews with Frank Black.

The track-by-track breakdown at the end of the book is good to read whilst listening to the album at the same time, too.

The only negative to the book is the author's voice throughout the whole thing - we're all big fans of the Pixies, hence reading th
...more
Steve
Jan 22, 2015 Steve rated it liked it
Ben Sisario needs a shirt that reads "I cruised around Oregon for three days with Frank Black and all I got is another copy of 'Doolittle.'" He admits that Frank, aka Black Francis, aka Charles Thompson, didn't give him very much useful insight into the Pixies' landmark album. They stopped into a record store to buy the album (which Sisario apparently already had in his bag), but they didn't accomplish much else.
Still, he got to hang out with one of his musical idols for three days. Sisario is
...more
Shelby Wilson
Jul 19, 2015 Shelby Wilson rated it really liked it
This was a great find from the bookstore in Chelsea Market in New York. This is a whole series of books about some of the greatest albums ever written: kind of the backstory, what do songs mean, interview the artists, and breakdown each song kind of thing.

Doolittle has long been on my list of all-time top five albums, but I was still shocked to find it on a shelf containing a breakdown on Pet Sounds and musings about Highway 61 Revisited (both fantastic in their own right).

Sisario isn't alway
...more
Hundeschlitten
Jun 22, 2015 Hundeschlitten rated it liked it
A solid, journalistic peak into the legacy of Doolittle, the Pixies most album-ey album, a well-researched, albeit a little pedestrian, look at one of my faves. I really didn't need all the stuff about driving around Portland in Frank Black's car, and Kim Deal gets short shrift in this one. But Sisario picked the perfect time to write this, soon after the Pixies first reunion, when their legend had grown and it was clear their music would stand the test of time, but before they became a travelin ...more
Suzie
Jun 17, 2012 Suzie rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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 really liked it
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
Mar 02, 2013 Dusty Henry rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it
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
Sep 20, 2013 Brad rated it it was ok
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
Nov 20, 2012 Byron rated it liked it
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
David Macpherson
Sep 24, 2015 David Macpherson rated it it was ok
Despite the fact that the author got an interview with Black Francis to do the book, this was a dull, uninteresting experience. I actually put the book down for six months and only now decided to finish it. Maybe because the album Pixies means so much to me personally that I couldn't get excited about another person's interpretations to the songs I loved. I have liked other 33 1/3 books about albums I have been ambivalent about, but this one, about an album I adore, not so much
Patrick McCoy
Dec 21, 2007 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: music



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
Dec 18, 2014 Corey Vilhauer rated it liked it
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
Eric Reitz
May 02, 2016 Eric Reitz rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Really top-notch work, covering the history of the band and the recording process in an alternating scholarly/gonzo manner that is succinct and breezy. Track by track analysis, too, which I always appreciate. Really, it's more of a 4 1/2 rating, but I'm not sure I want to round up all the way to 5.
Aaron Talbot
Jul 15, 2014 Aaron Talbot rated it it was amazing
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...
Jeremy
Dec 26, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Reads like a long article from Rolling Stone, by which I mean it's solid music journalism and there are definitely some interesting tidbits, but no revelations. If you love the album, you'll probably enjoy this book, but it's not going to change how you feel about the Pixies.
Jonathan
Jul 08, 2013 Jonathan rated it liked it
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
May 02, 2013 Gabe Durham rated it liked it

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
Dec 31, 2008 Stefanie rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2007 Bill rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2012 Jonathan rated it liked it
Shelves: music
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
May 08, 2012 Brooks rated it it was amazing
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
Michael B Tager
Jun 30, 2015 Michael B Tager rated it liked it
I wish Kim Deal would have done interviews. It would have been nice to get her side.
Robert
Aug 18, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing
The Pixies are one those bands who are a bit mysterious, Yes they were darlings of the alt world but notice that the real stuff started to occur in 2005 when they reunited and started to tour again.

Anyway Doolittle is The Pixies highpoint (mind you they never had a bad album) and Sisario goes into all the details a pixies fan would love - recording techniques, meaning behind the songs etc. There's even some bits about the Pixies post split and the reunion. It's a readable book which will make yo
...more
Grahm Eberhardt
Sep 02, 2014 Grahm Eberhardt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, music, biography
THIS is what the 33 1/3 series should always be like. When I opened this book, I was a casual Pixies fan. I always enjoyed their music as part of the late 80's / early 90's alt-rock scene that soundtracked my adolescence but never really "got" them. By the time I was halfway through, I was hooked. I've had the album on repeat all week as I read and the album opens up more on each listen. I'm not a super-fan but I understand and appreciate them a hundred times more than I did a week ago. Perfect ...more
Andrew
Mar 29, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Fun read, indeed! An enjoyable short book for fans of the album!
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“There was scant precedent for the prickly kind of pop the Pixies played, and their sound is recognizable on the slightest whiff. It’s a series of opposing forces that fit together incongruously but exquisitely: a bouncy yet firm bassline (Deal called it “boingy-boingysproingy”) joined to a demented choir of punky guitars; Thompson’s harsh primal scream beside Deal’s coy and smoky harmonies; explosive, grating riffs in songs crafted from prime bubblegum. Behind it all is Thompson’s song-writing, playful but also insular, inscrutable.” 0 likes
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