2003's These Are the Vistas caught many ears with its combination of jazz cool and off-kilter covers, most notably the band's update of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." This year's Give offers more of the same, mixing solid, bottom-heavy originals and covers of songs by Ornette Coleman and Black Sabbath. And if you can't wait for this summer's Pixies reunion tour, the entropic run through "Velouria" should be enough to make your horn-rims fog up.
While these covers often serve as lightning rods for critics and fans, the originals are just as melodic, forceful and challenging. All three members (yes, even the drummer!) share writing duties -- not merely jamming on a theme, but developing ideas and shaping the structure of a song. On "Cheney Piñata," King's Latin shuffle gives way to Iverson's spider-fingered attack on the keyboard while Anderson's sonorous, resonating upright bass provides a safety net for all the activity. The liner notes give a bit more context to the curious title: "Our lonely VP rendered in papier-mâché and filled with candy and treats instead of oil and defense contracts." Who says jazz can't be funny and political at the same time?