In today’s “Nonfiction Chronicle” in the New York Times Book Review, there’s a short – and peculiar – piece on Ben Sisario’s Pixies book.
There’s a link to the whole article here (including brief reviews of four other books), but the relevant review is here:
DOOLITTLE. By Ben Sisario. (Continuum, paper, $9.95.) A friend of mine once had a girlfriend who kept a careful diary. “Never has so much been written about so little,” he’d say. You could say that about “Doolittle,” too, an entire book devoted to a Pixies album (part of Continuum’s “33·” series). But that would mean you don’t know the alt-rock god Charles Thompson, a k a Frank Black. Sisario, who is on the arts desk staff of The New York Times, explains how Thompson and a buddy once placed an ad in The Boston Phoenix: “Seeking female bassist into Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul & Mary.” Only one person responded: Kim Deal (later of the Breeders). In April 1989, “Doolittle” was released, and history was made. “They had a good angle . . . band with pretty girl and silly name makes weird music that critics dig,” Sisario writes. Thompson was “an Everydude, a pudgy blank slate” whose lyrics about “sexual loathing and visions of apocalypse” touched a chord. “I don’t know that sex is a totally beautiful, normal thing the way that the gods intended for a lot of people,” says Thompson, who (to his credit) refuses to get too deep about his music. In graceful prose, Sisario shows how the Pixies influenced Kurt Cobain (he “told Rolling Stone that with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ he ‘was basically trying to rip off the Pixies’ “) and became “one of the most admired and namechecked bands of the decade of alternative rock.” Sisario provides an abundance of detail in some areas (e.g., a four-page exegesis on “Monkey Gone to Heaven”) but leaves other issues unresolved, like “Why save the U.F.O. songs for the B-sides?” The puzzle remains: why would he (or anyone) want to know?
Erm…maybe because he (or anyone) is interested in the band? Just a thought.