From Doolittle to the Last Splash: The Story of Kim Deal and my Internalised Misogyny
When I was thirteen I only wanted to listen to music that boys I liked also listened to. This was made easy by MySpace, which had a ‘music’ section where its users could fill out every band they listened to on their profile, as well as the function to have a ‘song’ that would play every time someone visited your page. One boy listed Pixies as the first band on his profile, and his song was set to “Debaser”. Naturally, I searched for, and then listened to, the band’s entire discography. And I really, genuinely liked them. Initially this pleased me in two ways: firstly, I had found a new band to listen to; secondly, the fact I liked them meant I had something in common with a boy.
Doolittle (1989) soon became my all time favourite album. During puberty, I thought listening to it over and over would somehow bring me closer to the boy who had unwittingly introduced me to them. Unsurprisingly, it absolutely did not. However, what it did bring me closer to was the beginning of me ridding myself of my internalised misogyny.
Doolittle wasn’t just another album, and Pixies weren’t just another band. This boy had pointed me in the direction of a plethora of other bands I still listen to regularly like Pulp, Joy Division, and The Arctic Monkeys, to name a few. However, the difference between these bands and Pixies, is a woman named Kim Deal. On the surface level, Kim was what I had always strived to be at that age: she seemed to be ‘one of the boys’. I had always thought I preferred men’s voices to women’s, but the contrast of Kim’s voice to front man, Frank Black’s, surprised me and changed my opinion entirely. Frank’s guttural, bombastic vocals are a big pulling point for the band, but it’s Kim’s clear and relaxed melodies that I ultimately related to and wanted to hear more of. Listening to Doolittle, I was able to sing along so easily to the entirety of “Gigantic”, a song sung primarily by Kim; and in “Hey“, I always chose her vocals to follow instead of his. Until this point, women I admired had often felt like competition for me. But Kim was relatable; her voice took a space in the band so very righteously. There was something surprisingly empowering about listening to Doolittle, an album that seemed overwhelmingly masculine, but hearing the femininity in it and realising that it wouldn’t be the same without Kim Deal.
Kim wasn’t one of the boys; she was one of a kind.
For once, this sentiment of another woman being ‘one of a kind’ didn’t make my teenage self so jealous. If Kim could stand out, so could I. If Kim could stand out, so could any woman – and it would be okay. Kim showed me that there is space for women in this masculine world. And better yet, there’s space for women to support other women, as I learned from admiring her work without a trace of envy.
At some point, I was introduced to The Breeders. I listened to The Last Splash (1993), I loved it from start to end. This was another surprise for me. I never realised until that point that a group of ‘just’ women could make music I would love so much. But The Breeders are not ‘just’ women, they’re four whole women – four very talented people, in fact – who make great music. Who the fuck needs a man around to do that?
The Last Splash became the soundtrack to my summers in my later teen years, and perhaps the humble beginnings of my unapologetic and uninterrupted support for other women. I’m not sorry to say that The Breeders are, by a long shot, the most important and influential side project by a member of the original Pixies. Whilst Frank was hailed as the all-important front man of the band, I find the quality of his side projects pale in comparison to Kim’s. Like Pixies, The Breeders took so much of what was around at their time, chose the best parts, and made it their own. The Last Splash has heavy bass, power chords, catchy melodies, repetitive phrasing,and steady drumbeats, all capped off by some incredible harmonies. Like Doolittle, there are the catchy songs that make little to no sense lyrically (“Cannonball” in The Last Splash, “Debaser” in Doolittle), and the all too relatable, slower paced love songs (“Do You Love Me Now?” in The Last Splash, and “La La Love You” in Doolittle.) Both albums have their standout singles, yet admittedly, overall Doolittle is the stronger of the two. But in my eyes, that doesn’t take anything away from The Breeders, nor from Kim as an artist in her own right.
Kim Deal is an artist who showed me that women can hold their own ground and make incredible music both with, and without men. It’s a painful irony that I took the route of following a boy’s music taste to find her, but in the end she helped me to find my own taste in music – and in politics too. Learning to love Kim was the start of me learning to love other women’s voices, and even learning to love my own.
With a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for one woman and thereafter for all women, I now feel the need to say: Thank you, Kim Deal.
I do have one last note on Kim – this note comes from a different album, Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa (1988). It’s not about the music this time, but on the first album she had helped to create, Kim had credited herself as “Mrs John Murphy”, with Mr John Murphy being her husband at the time. I find this element rather frustrating, and conflicting with everything Kim’s career seemed to stand for – her own talent in music always spoke so much louder than any tie she had to any man. Yet, at the end of the day, all I can say is, I’m glad she got it right in time for Doolittle.
Madeleine Connolly is a part time kindergarten teacher / part time psychology student, aspiring to be a developmental neuropsychologist. When she’s not listening to the wiggles at work, she’s probably listening to anything made within the years 1985 – 2005, eating vegan food, and making plans to travel the world. You can follow her on Instagram at @madeleine_lc