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P. J. Owen
- Publié sur Amazon.com
The first thing to know about the 33 1/3 series is that since each book is written by a different author, each book will have its own tone, style, and in some cases, format. For example, the book about Radiohead's OK Computer is a dry analysis of the music theory behind the album, while the book for PJ Harvey's Rid of Me is actually short fiction. So it's important you read the description and reviews of each carefully before purchasing.
Thankfully, the format for the Doolittle installment is more straight-forward than the examples I cite above: it's written in the basic long article style you'd expect to read in Spin or Rolling Stone. That's not very surprising since the author, Ben Sisario, is a regular contributor to these magazines. Through interviews with the band members (especially Charles Thompson and excluding Kim Deal, who refused to participate) and others involved, he quickly covers the formation of the band in 1986 and their early and quick success (in England, at least) with Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa, before moving on to the main subject.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot here about Thompson's writing influences, especially his interests in surrealistic art (its influence is most notable on "Debaser", which begins "Got me a movie! Ha ha ha ho! Slicing up eyeballs! Ha ha ha ho!" after the Bunuel and Dali film `Un chien andalou') and religious & mythological storytelling, ("Ole Neptuna's only daughter" & "Then, God is seven!") which came to their greatest fruition on Doolittle. Sisario does a good job of getting the story on Thompson's oftentimes obscure, almost impressionistic lyrics. Sometimes, as Thompson admits, words came for no better reason than a rhyme pattern, yet they always seem to coalesce around the themes that interest him.
Of course, there's also a good bit here on the music. Joey Santiago talks about his influences, especially the minimalist note painting of Wes Montgomery and the `Hendrix' chord. (E7 sharp-9, which Hendrix used to add just the right edge to the verse in `Purple Haze'. Santiago went up a step to F7 sharp-9 to create the menacing drone in chorus of `Tame') Sisario also touches on Lovering's assured and bombastic drumming and Deal's thumping bass, which anchored the music while the melodies flew by. Interviews with the producer, Gil Norton, show his genius for corralling the band, especially Thompson, to get the best album possible. (Though the Pixies were well-prepared for the sessions, and it's implied that the relative failure of their next two albums could be attributed to poor band preparation for them. Though how much of that was from the already-rising tensions anyway?)
But it is the contrasts that make The Pixies, and especially Doolittle, so great: Deal's angelic voice as a counterpoint to Thompson's screams, the quietloudquietloud verse and chorus dynamic, the humor tinged lyrics of rape, incest, and violence. Sisario goes into great detail on the musical effects and meanings in a song by song breakdown after the main text, and I found this to be the most intriguing part of the book, required reading for anyone who loves the album. Thompson was the main songwriter and driving force of the band, but Sisario ably demonstrates how all the parts created a whole that pushed alternative rock to a place I would argue it has yet to return. (He talks of the odd paradox that the Pixies have influenced so many without creating a single band that sounds like them.)
This book is a must for any Pixie fan. It's well-written, informative, and an all-too poignant reminder of the genius of a band that left us too soon.