Pixies, Doolittle – I think this might be the band’s most popular album, and it was certainly the first one I heard. It’s not my personal favorite, but it’s quite solid. I remember reading that the working title was Whore, but the final name referred to Dr. Dolittle. They spelled his name with an extra O, but that’s pretty much par for the course with the Pixies. Despite the raw, electric sound of the music, there are a lot of themes on it related to nature, so someone who talks to animals is pretty appropriate.
Debaser – As with the opening song on Surfer Rosa, it brings in one instrument at a time, this time starting with the bass. The lyrics refer to the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou, in which the most famous image is an eyeball being sliced.
Tame – The Pixies are largely known for quiet verses and loud choruses. This song is good example of that, with the dynamics resulting largely from not using guitar on the verses. From what I’ve read, the lyrics are about the effort annoying college women put into looking sexy.
Wave of Mutilation – The first line, “cease to resist,” refers to the song “Cease to Exist” that Charles Manson wrote for the Beach Boys. The title seems to be referencing this odd combination as well, and the line about driving a car into the ocean was apparently something several Japanese businessmen did around when Black Francis wrote the song.
I Bleed – The harmonies between Frank and Kim Deal work well here, with the latter singing melodically and the former basically reciting them. The last verse is about a cliff dwelling in Arizona where you can put your hand inside an impression of an ancient handprint. I like the picture that accompanies this song in the liner notes, showing a bell lined with teeth. It’s a disturbing and fascinating juxtaposition.
Here Comes Your Man – A very poppy number, which Frank once said he found too chirpy and sugary. This is somewhat in contrast to the lyrics, which are about earthquakes and hobos dying on boxcars during them. It’s perhaps the most immediately accessible Pixies song, and I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. The band’s music videos tended to be very minimalist, and this is probably the most famous one. It mocks the convention of lip-syncing in videos by simply having Frank and Kim hold their mouths wide open during their vocal parts.
Dead – This one returns to the theme of disturbing stories from the Bible, in this case that of David and Bathsheba. This guy was a legendary hero and the founder of a dynasty of kings, but the most prominent source on him says he basically raped a woman, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed. The Good Book is an excellent resource for really dark song subjects. I read that there’s a klezmer cover of this song, which sounds like an awesome idea, but I’ve never heard it.
Monkey Gone to Heaven – Another quite accessible song, if not quite as catchy and melodic as “Here Comes Your Man.” It actually has a bit of an environmental theme, making reference to the dumping of garbage into the ocean and the hole in the ozone layer. Frank has said that the refrain isn’t really related to anything else, but was just what he came up with to fit the music. Someone must have liked it enough to make a monkey with a halo the picture on the album cover. References to man as five, the Devil as six, and God as seven are common in Jewish numerology. So it’s kind of a hodge-podge, but it works.
Mr. Grieves – A fun, mostly fast song about death and the apocalypse. It was apparently the source for the album title, due to the lyric “pray for a man in the middle, one that talks like Doolittle.” Frank has admitted that it’s thematically connected to the previous song, and both mention Neptune (he’s the “underwater guy who controlled the sea”).
Crackity Jones – This one is about a mentally ill roommate Frank had while studying in Puerto Rico. He apparently frequently talked about someone called “Paco Picopiedra,” who turned out to be Fred Flintstone. The actual Spanish name for the character is Pedro Picapiedra, but I’m not sure who made the mistake. “Thirty miles by hundred miles” are the approximate dimensions of the island.
La La Love You – Drummer David Lovering takes the lead vocal on this slight and intentionally silly song about sex.
No. 13 Baby – Basically just a song about attraction to a woman, although Frank has said it’s largely a combination of various images he remembered from growing up. “Viva la Loma Rica,” literally meaning “long live the rich hills” (well, more or less), was a gang that was active in the Los Angeles area during his childhood. While he didn’t actually know anything about them, they were referenced in a lot of graffiti. The number thirteen was a common tattoo at the time, standing for the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, which in turn stood for “marijuana.”
There Goes My Gun – The second shortest song on the record doesn’t really have a lot of content, but it’s interesting and catchy. Frank has said it’s supposed to be mysterious, like someone was shot, but you have no idea whodunit.
Hey – There’s an interesting arrangement to this one, which Frank has said turned out to be the band’s only rhythm-and-blues song. The lyrics are once again quite sexual, and apparently inspired by old stories rumors about relationships.
Silver – The only song on the album for which Kim receives a writing credit. From what I’ve read, the band was never really interested in what she wrote, although I guess she later had an outlet for her songwriting with the Breeders. Something about the general sound makes me think of cowboys out on the lonesome trail, although there’s also distorted guitar that you wouldn’t generally associate with western music.
Gouge Away – Here, it’s more the verses that are loud and the chorus fairly quiet. It covers another messed-up Bible story, that of Samson and Delilah.