By Scott Thill

Don't look now, but 2004 is turning out to be one of the more memorable years in music since the late '80s and early '90s. Back then, rock was morphing into alternative or modern rock; nowadays, it's morphing into indie rock. Same dish, different recipe.

But the lesson remains the same. Stir some sociopolitical upheaval into a pot filled with stagnant mainstream music and a media infatuated with popcorn fantasies like ABC's upcoming Wifeswap and you'll reach a credible sonic explosion ahead of schedule.

Pixies, Trompe le Monde

Speaking of the early '90s, the final entry in our continuing retrospective on the newly reunited Pixies dropped in 1991, followed by a short tour and an eventual bitter breakup. But let no one say the Pixies didn't go out with a bang: while their previous release Bossanova took it easier on the eardrums than earlier albums, from the first song Trompe le Monde upped the ferocity index and didn't let go until the very end.

Whether it is the disjointed, labyrinthine title song, the steamrolling cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On," the raucous surf punk of "Alec Eiffel" or the college rock anthem "UMass," Trompe le Monde remains today one of the band's most curious architectures, stacked equally with lyrical invention and sonic brutality. If it weren't for the fact that the band reformed, Trompe le Monde would be a fitting, uncomfortable end to a band that loved to make people uncomfortable with mediocrity.

But that's all history now. These are new days for the Pixies, and we're the luckier for it. In fact, for those souls who are happy to have the band back again, head to iTunes and download "Bam Thwok," the Pixies first new song in more than a decade. Everything old is indeed new again.

PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her

Speaking of the Pixies, take a guess as to who influenced the brilliant PJ Harvey early in her career? You got it. Harvey tabbed producer Steve Albini, who defined the Pixies sound on Surfer Rosa, for her second full-length, 1993's raw, uncompromising Rid of Me, and on the strength of that album redefined the role of women in rock forever. While Harvey's last album -- 2000's confessional pop masterpiece Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea -- was almost specifically designed to crack the mainstream, Uh Huh Her has been billed by many as a return to Harvey's Rid of Me rage.

But it's much more than that. Uh Huh Her is a culmination of Harvey's decade-plus investment in baring her soul for the sake of Art, and a brilliant album to boot. From the murder balled "Pocket Knife" to the noise rock of "The Letter" and onward, Uh Huh Her finds Harvey using all her musical gifts -- guitar, bass, drums, piano -- to make naked her tortured ruminations on sex, death, femininity, masculinity and all the demons between. Don't miss it.

David Cross, It's Not Funny

If you're a Republican, you might want to pass up this live comedy disc -- unless you're one of the many Republicans that are not happy with the current administration, that is. If that's the case, then you're definitely going to want to spend a night laughing your ass off to this ex-Mr. Show brainiac as he deconstructs America's post-9/11 life of anxiety-ridden leisure. Cross is an acquired taste for some, a truth-teller for others. His trenchant cracks against President Bush, Paris Hilton, John Ashcroft, MTV and much more are so casual but dead-on that you won't be forgiven for thinking he made everything up right before the show. Always the independent, Cross' albums are coming out now on SubPop, the legendary indie label that broke Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and many more around the -- you got it! -- late '80s and early '90s. Didn't I say everything old was new again?


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© Melt Magazine 2004 
© Melt Magazine 2004