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The Pixies' Doolittle

(33⅓ #31)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  747 ratings  ·  87 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
...more
Paperback, 127 pages
Published March 8th 2006 by Bloomsbury Academic
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  747 ratings  ·  87 reviews


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A
Dec 03, 2009 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
Rob Adey
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's a bit of record-store-clerk dickery here, but I do like to know that Joey Santiago recorded some of his parts in a little cupboard.
Sam Quixote
Nov 24, 2013 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
Ben
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yay for a good 33 1/3 book. This series has its moments that keep me coming back to read them, but not enough that I want to buy them.

I appreciate that the author doesn’t stretch to make connections or insights too often. I don’t get much out of people trying to read into an artist’s psyche from a few lines in a song. It also made me go back and listen (a lot) to some Pixies albums, which was highly enjoyable.

Definitely worth your time if you’re into Doolittle or the Pixies in general. But who
...more
Mike
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book should have been titled “The Pixies are Smart, but Ben Sisario thinks he's smarter.” I don't think there was literally an unnecessarily obscure reference on every page, but it certainly felt like it.

To be fair, in between telling everyone how smart he is, it managed to be a decently researched book. Not great, but passable.
lindy
Dec 28, 2007 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 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
Dec 10, 2015 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
Oisín
I was hoping that unlike Gina Arnold's even worse 33 1/3 submission on Exile in Guysville, this would live up to its respective album. Sadly, the series continues to disappoint.

At first I thought the book's main flaw would be Ben Sisario's habit of inserting himself and his opinions into the work (his description of Jack Black as a "cool celebrity" is unforgivable) when he and his writing are not particularly charismatic or compelling. However, as the book progresses and Sisario disa
...more
Bill
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's that classic saying, "never meet your heroes", and I worried there might a similar warning out there, "never read about how one of your favorite albums ever was made." But I'm glad I read this entertaining, mostly informative, and oddly structured little book. It describes the backstory of the Pixies, a few "where are they now" anecdotes, and a breakdown of the songs and structure of the album "Doolittle". There's also fun moments like road trip adventures with Charles Thompson and a che ...more
Nicole M.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, nonfiction
Nice! Pixies' album Doolittle played a huge part in adolescence, and to read a book exalting a favorite work of art always feels so satisfying. However, it's not just some silly drooling panegyric--it's a legitimate investigation and critical look into an album by a legendary band that came and went as a blip in musical history. A lot of information is given, and yet is also assumes a lot of prior knowledge about the group. It's perfect for the die-hard Pixies fan --myself--and has surprisingly ...more
Stewart Mitchell
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If this was a full length book that spanned the entire Pixies career arc, it would be absolutely excellent. As it stands, it’s an insightful reminder of why Doolittle is one of the best pieces of rock music ever recorded.
Jennifer Fenn
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My favorite of the 33 1/3 books so far! Just the right balance of cultural reflection, history of the band, and a track by track analysis of the songs. Fans of the band will enjoy very much!
Rob
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some useful interview material with Thompson but the book is, alas, like the band: Kim Deal-lite
Mark
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘‘Twas fine.
Steve
Jan 22, 2015 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 16, 2015 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 always t
...more
Andrew
Dec 22, 2010 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
Carol
Jan 24, 2012 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 re
...more
Byron
Oct 23, 2012 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
Suzie
Jun 12, 2012 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
Brad
Jul 31, 2013 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' importa
...more
Dusty Henry
Mar 01, 2013 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
Hundeschlitten
Jun 22, 2015 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
Patrick McCoy
Dec 21, 2007 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
Feb 23, 2010 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 the
...more
Bill
Sep 18, 2007 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
Gabe Durham
May 02, 2013 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
...more
Jonathan
Jan 03, 2013 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
Fanny
Dec 31, 2008 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
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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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