This tribute by over a hundred Bay Area musicians will gratify those who have wondered what Doolittle would sound like if every song sounded nearly the same. It’s an effort far from the spirit of the original album, which stands for me between R.E.M.’s jangle and the Meat Puppets’ yelps. Doolittle inspired Pavement’s vocals and lyrics and Nirvana’s stop-start, loud-soft dynamic. The Pixies’ second record, it established them in 1990 with radio-friendly songs nestled next to weird exaltation. The diversity of the original 15 tracks, for all their determined experimentation, resulted in compact, odd, punchy songs that clocked in for the most part at less than three minutes.
This sprawling and much longer tribute reassembles these college-rock anthems into frenetic, lurching, orchestral arrangements colliding with alternately funky, corn-pone, theatrical, Latin, jazzy, relentlessly off-kilter interpretations. Classical Revolution and Unwoman’s “Wave of Mutilation” features appealing, earthy female vocals; Conspiracy of Venus’s “Monkey Gone to Heaven” survives the sonic blend best, as they maintain the melodic concision of the source material.
Too many other songs ramble on, veer and shout, stomp and chortle. Their attention-getting but distracting, nagging eclecticism reduces too many players to, ironically (an adverb key to the Pixies’s music), sounding like the hundred-odd other musicians convened to produce this record. Its songs tend to sound the same, diminishing the eclectic appeal of both their inspiration, “Doolittle”, and these tributes by an equally diverse range of bands crammed onto a busy, buzzing, but ultimately more irritating than pleasing disc.