18 January, 2015 in Music Reviews
One of American alt-rock’s most classic albums gets the deluxe reissue treatment, a full quarter-century on from its original release
hat’s not been said about Doolittle? It’s been ranked variously as the fourth best album of its era and the second best of all time. As you might expect, Team Songwriting (mostly!) share the view of its particular place in music’s canon and if you’ve bothered reading this far then no doubt you do too.
If a quarter of a century is enough to be buried under pretenders many times over, it takes only a second to demonstrate why this totemic record still floats above its followers. Debaser was one of the founding flames of alt-rock and still burns bright today. Black Francis was famed for his ability to write songs quickly, but his peers could still be composing now without matching the pop whizz of his sophomore release’s opener. It commences an exercise in perfection.
Though the obvious appeal of Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone To Heaven and Gouge Away grab the attention, what really hits home is just how good the rest of the album is. Whether it’s the blitzkrieg surf-pop of Crackity Jones, the Nirvana-birthing No. 13 Baby or the lazy genius of I Bleed, there’s not a moment of filler. The album’s 15 tracks draw you back to a time when music didn’t just mean something to you but everything, and it’s a granite soul that doesn’t feel a bit warm inside when Gouge Away has rung its last note.
As a deluxe reissue, there are of course some shiny new features and extras thrown in for the bargain. Disc two has six B-sides and oodles of John Peel sessions, while disc three gives you the album in complete demo form. The original sleeve work is also reinterpreted by the man responsible for the original, Vaughan Oliver. As far as extras go, they’re all fan-friendly but without being truly revelatory: a warmly received bonus but nothing too exciting to distract from the main attraction.
It’s rare an album is such a clear, seismic and enduring influence, and rarer still that its placement as such is entirely deserved. Doolittle, though, is simply so good that alt-rock is still playing catch-up and it’s doubtful that it ever will be caught. The only debate that persists is whether it’s better than its predecessor Surfer Rosa, and that’s an argument that can be left to rage on for as long as Francis, Deal, Santiago and Lovering continue to be relevant.
Verdict: A timeless alt-rock classic that still stands up today