On this day 22 years ago, something special happened to the world – Pixies’ masterpiece was released. The recording sessions have been described as difficult – so much so that the band chemistry was forever altered. The music was not commercially successful (peaking at #98 in the Billboard 200, and the “hit” single only getting to #3 in the Billboard Modern Rock chart). But here we are more than two decades later, still touched by the impact of this mammoth record. Doolittle is one of the greatest rock albums ever released.
But why is it still so revered? The hyper-saturation of modern music can make it difficult to see the singular nature of Doolittle. So let’s take a step back and consider popular and alternative music in April of 1989, and also see what other artists have said about Pixies.
After recently hitting pretty big (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in the Billboard top 10), it’s interesting to consider the path of Spoon. This band out of Austin seems to have achieved that elusive indie crossover status. However, this wasn’t without effort and great change within the band’s sound.
Spoon is now amongst my favorite artists, but it’s a bit harder to see their greatness in their early days.
Early Days: Pixie Phone
It is effortless to peg early Spoon efforts as Pixies-inspired. Dynamic shifts, near-scream vocals and thrashing guitars instantly recall the sounds of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Pixies are lauded as one of the great rock bands. To copy one of the greats is probably a wise choice.
Unfortunately, Spoon’s first two albums do very little to stand apart from other bands. Thankfully there are two points that differentiate the group: Britt Daniels and Jim Eno.
For all the derivative sounds, lead singer and main composer Britt Daniels had a knack for sonic quality from the start. By ensuring that first album Telephono was an excellent Pixies facsimile, the record nearly stands the test of time.
The second facet of Spoon’s early success is in drummer Jim Eno. Inventive fills and a great sense of rhythm infect every song on Telephono.
So Essential Listening isn’t just stuck to this lovely website anymore. Every day, I read all sorts of music sites and blogs, looking for interesting music that I haven’t listened to.
Today, I’m featured on one of my new favorite blogs, Viva La Mainstream. I’ve got a little write-up about Pixies, and what I deem to be their best album: Surfer Rosa.
What makes Viva La Mainstream such a great blog? It’s the relentless pursuit of content. Unlike many (including me), TJ (Viva’s author) is always updating. Perhaps the best feature is the most obvious one: Album A Day. Each day, TJ updates the site with yet another album. There’s no theme, no overarching cause – just constant discussion of music.
This kind of devotion to site is really inspiring as a reader and a writer. I’m glad to see that he’s updating daily (gives me more to look at), but it’s also like a challenge. I consider: perhaps I should be updating more often.
Readers, I encourage you to stop by Viva La Mainstream and keep supporting TJ’s effort. It’s partially because I ran into his work that I’ve been so much more willing to update over the past few weeks.