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The Late Movies: The Pixies' "Doolittle" Turns 23 Today

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the release of Doolittle, a landmark album by the Pixies that influenced boatloads of musicians in the ensuing years (though most musicians I know pretend they liked Surfer Rosa better).

Last year, in a roundup of Pixies covers, I wrote: "The Pixies have had a special place in my heart since I discovered Doolittle in 1996 — three years after the band had broken up and seven years after the album was released. I used to listen to that tape on repeat as I walked to class, from class, even sometimes in class." I still listen to the album all the time -- albeit no longer on tape -- and seeing them live in recent years (the band formed again in 2004) was wonderful and unexpected -- quite honestly, it was my version of seeing The Beatles suddenly rise up, join, and start touring again.

So now that I've baited you into leaving Beatles-vs.-Pixies comments, I present Doolittle in its entirety, in various live recordings spanning the decades. Enjoy. If you've never heard of this band before, I suggest you skip down to "Here Comes Your Man" and listen to that first.

"Debaser"

The best song about surrealism and eyeballs yet. From the reunion tour. I still love Kim's intentionally out-of-time echo vocals.

"Tame"

From Brixton Academy, 1991. "Taaaaaaaame!" Note the concordance between this loud-quiet-loud dynamic and bands like Nirvana. Also be aware that the first ten times I heard this song, I hated it...then I loved it. I recall telling my roommate, "But it's just yelling," and he said, "No it's not. Just keep listening."

"Wave of Mutilation"

The less-often-heard original "fast" version from the album (a slower "UK Surf" version is considerably more popular but less hardcore). From 2005.

"I Bleed"

From Glastonbury, 1989. Complete with slight mistakes in Joey's intro guitar line.

"Here Comes Your Man"

The famously awkward music video, in which the band, incapable of lip-syncing, simply held their mouths open during the parts where singing occurs. I remember seeing this on 120 Minutes and having my mind blown.

"Dead"

Live in Utrecht, 1990.

"Monkey Gone to Heaven"

Live on Letterman. "There was a guy. An underwater guy, who controlled the sea...."

"Mr. Grieves"

Some audio/video sync issues, but still quite nice.

"Crackity Jones"

Live in Utrecht, 1990. Just one and a half minutes long.

"La La Love You"

David Lovering finally gets a shot at a lead vocal, and Frank is "all crackers." Also: "Hi, Mom!" and "Boston!" I remember this song really, really confusing me when I first heard the album. The false start here makes this more fun, in my opinion.

"No. 13 Baby"

From Austin City Limits. At around the 2:05 mark in this recording starts the part of the album where the listener's existential dread is greatest. Melodic noodling and chugging rhythm section equals "I think I'll just skip class and rethink my priorities."

"There Goes My Gun"

"This is the difficult section, the challenging section of the album." -Kim Deal

"Hey"

I used to play this on the jukebox at Club Downunder in Tallahassee, Florida, over and over. See also: a live-in-studio version from 1988.

"Silver"

Creepy much?

"Gouge Away"

Hey look, another album about eyeball trauma. A twofer!

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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