PIXIES "Doolittle." Elektra ****: Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

Wouldn't it be wild if quirky alternative rockers like Pere Ubu and the Swans (each now on major labels) turned out to be in 1989 what sensitive folkie types were in 1988? If that happens, the Pixies' second album should reach the top of the charts.

Unlikely. But, if it did, it would probably start with the Boston quartet's song "Here Comes Your Man," a sweet 'n' summery cross of the Tremeloes' '67 pop hit "Here Comes My Baby," Them's "Here Comes the Night" and the Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man." Way cool, indeed, but no less so than the flip of the coin that follows immediately, the fractured horror-flick tune "Dead," a yowling hunka anti-pop. The neat thing is that this major bit of, um, Pixilation doesn't come off as coy or arch, but dovetails to form a serious/curious dichotomy not unlike that of the Sugarcubes.

The hands-down highlight, however, is the cello-mellowed "Monkey Gone to Heaven." Here, singer-guitarist Black Francis (ne Charles Thompson) suspends himself halfway between his winking and wicked extremes for a majestic yet dry elegy to humanity's follies, with bassist Kim Deal's indifferent reading of the title phrase bold-facing Francis' understated confusion and anger. The prototype for thoughtful, creative and bracing pop in the '90s? We can only hope.

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