by Scott Thill

Yes, it's April, but you are no fools. You know an amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage is wack, you know that Lord of the Rings deserved the 945 Oscars it won, you know that the Enron cats make Martha Stewart look like a candy-store shoplifter, and you also know that this is the biggest year for music since the early '90s, when the Pixies disbanded rather than reunited.

The Pixies. Back together again. Man, I can't stand the suspense. Let's get to it.

Pixies, Surfer Rosa

While Come On Pilgrim was nevertheless one of 1987's most addictive and unique punk-pop gems, it was still just an EP containing eight catchy tunes. Like my last column explained, it was basically the Pixies' demo tape, so by the time the dust it kicked up in the music industry's face settled, the band had already taken their act into the studio and emerged one year later with their first true album, Surfer Rosa. From its cover emblazoned with a bare-chested beauty to Steve Albini's bottom-heavy production to the in-your-face drums and songs sung half in Spanish, Surfer Rosa dropped like a daisy-cutter on a stale hair-metal and disco-pop landscape filled to the brim with amateurs. Songs like "River Euphrates," "I've Got Something Against You," and "Break My Body" were churning punk nuggets that you couldn't listen to at full volume, because Black Francis' cavernous bellows and Joey Santiago's ear-shattering solos would tear your eardrums in half.

Meanwhile, alternative rock's loud-soft-loud paradigm -- one that would sustain the careers of everyone from Nirvana, Radiohead, Sunny Day Real Estate, Smashing Pumpkins and more in the many years to come -- was firmly established behind Kim Deal's honey-voiced "Gigantic" and Francis' hilarious "Bone Machine," both of which received minor airplay at the time. More importantly, the gauntlet on weak-willed rock had been dropped, and music would never be the same again. While most critics would point to the their next album, Doolittle, as their watershed creative moment, Surfer Rosa is the favorite of early Pixies adopters everywhere, because it was brutal, uncompromising and catchy as hell. A timeless classic.


Preston School of Industry, Monsoon

When slack-rock legends Pavement finally decided to call it quits in 2000, all eyes followed Stephen Malkmus, as if he was the only member of the band with something to say. Big mistake.

While Malkmus' efforts have been uneven since Pavement's demise -- mostly because he's had a hard time maturing and living up to his former band's smart-ass hipsterism at the same time -- Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannenbeg's Preston School of Industry has enjoyed a modest amount of acclaim for turning out capable indie rock with slight touches of Pavement's self-conscious wisecracking.

The band's second album, Monsoon, picks up where its first one, All This Sounds Gas, left off, which is, smack dab in the middle of indie's road. "Tone It Down" and "Escalation Breeds Escalation" are diagonal beauties that lift the album out of its safe formula, while its inclusion of Wilco and the Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey takes Monsoon into more restrained but rewarding territory. Malkmus who?

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© Melt Magazine 2004