If you are a regular visitor of our webzine, you might have already noticed that some us writers are huge fans of Pavement. Stephen Malkmus’s solo album had first helped to sustain the impression that nothing had happened, that the pain caused by the brutal announcement of the split of the band last year was over. Then the release of the terrific double DVD ‘Slow Century’ a few months ago had brought up to life some never seen before goldies memories that had plunged us all into nostalgia and denial of the truth, but the five guys are not to work together again for a certain amount of time. So you might say : what the fuck, they are back now? No, we are not going wrong, this is a re-issue of an old album. Fans bless Matador. The label not only re-issued an album that is rather hard to find today, it proposed an enhanced copy with 2 CDs, 48 tracks, more than 2 hours of music. You’ll find here the whole basic album, plus alternative versions, b-sides, 2 Peel sessions, the Watery Domestic EP, a lot of unreleased material and 13 tracks from a 1992 concert at the Brixton Academy. Just like a never-ending flow of adrenaline rushing along your veins with numerous pops of ecstasy. I won’t be able to talk about everything, I have not already listened to it closely enough to do so, but it deserves a 10 mark because we are dealing with the best of indie pop rock and beyond.
First, I must admit that Slanted & Enchanted has never been the Pavement’s album I listened the most to, not only because I only had a MD copy up to now. I ‘ve always found it truly different from the rest of their albums, essentially in terms of sound. It is far more noisy and shambolic than the later albums, yet melodic but distorted and harsh; too much for me ? I have always felt that Brighteen the Corners was perfection in terms of composition and instrumentation but lately I have re-discovered Crooked Rain Crooked Rain and now this one and changed my mind about these early works. First, S & E contains some of their legendary songs that they never stopped playing live along the years ( Summer Babe, Here, In the mouth a Desert, Conduit for Sale,...). The album actually melts up all kind of pop forms in an open world of theirs. S & E grows on me now that I listen to it with a new ear, that of nostalgia. It is more than 10 years old and yet it casts a shadow over every noisy pop record made ever since. It was inspiring for Loretta and for many of us. In the end, no one sounds like Pavement. ‘Summer Babe’ is one of those naive hymns to love in a pop world, transcended by Malkmus’s singing and writing. ‘Trigger Cut’ is incredibly catchy and full of nonsense ( lies and betrayals / fruit covered nails / electricity ). Stephen Malkmus is a startling songwriter who is able to mix up all kind of ideas from which emerge weird concepts one may be able to turn into theories, and so on and so forth. ‘No life singed her’ is an angry answer to west coast grunge rise, far more innovative. ‘Zurich is Stained’ made me cry one night, but I was drunk and heartbroken. What does that mean anyway ? ‘Two States’ is simple, fun, stupid and so good. ‘Here’ speaks for an entire generation of self-made teenage pop stars ( I was made for success but success it never comes), plus an empathic mid tempo mellow drive that is both pop and country. ‘In the mouth a Desert’ was an opportunity for Gary Young ( the first drummer of the band, promptly replaced by Steve West ) to screw up the drums break on the introduction when they played it live ( see the Slow Century documentary for full knowledge ). While the bass line attempts to structure the song, the guitars build a noisy atmosphere, which is counterbalanced, as usual, by detached vocals.
And now the bonus tracks !
First, the 7’ version of ‘Summer Babe’, not so very different from the original, I think it’s the same you find on Westing by Musket and Sextant, a chaotic collection of early material. ‘Baptist Blacktick’ starts like a Sonic Youth cover, a band that may be Pavement’s grandmother, it is concise and full of angst, and I like it. ‘My first mine’ is representative of the way they turn basic chord progression into something great, plus a distorted harmonium solo here. ‘Here’’s alternative version is darker with its slow overdriven guitars instead of the clean ones. ‘Nothing ever Happens’ is the full length song called ‘Wounded kite at :17’ you can hear at the end of ‘Trigger cut’ on the album and understand rapidly why it was not entirely on the album because Spiral Stairs does not sing so well. The first CD ends on a Peel Session ( ‘Here’ plus 3 other tracks ). These songs fit in S & E spirit, maybe more controlled and refined. The version of ‘Here’ mixes the antinomic moods of the first two versions, both distorted and hypnotic, an it resembles the way they used to play it live. Stephen Malkmus also changes his interpretation (I was dressed for suck—cess).
The second CD opens on the Watery Domestic EP plus songs from the same recording sessions. For someone unfamiliar to Pavement, all these may sound alike but they are seven different ways to say the same thing. ‘Texas Never Whispers’ and ‘Frontwards’ are sad but hopeful variations on the basic Pavement’s song pattern: brilliant laid back indie pop played by nonchalant young men. Last time I listened to this CD, my roommate asked me why I kept on pushing the repeat button… Let’s point out ‘Greenlander’ with its freshening melancholy ( everything I did was right / everything I said was wrong / now we are waiting for the night to bring the dawn ).
The four songs from the second Peel Session are weaker than the rest but this may be due to the fact that I repeatedly skip them in order to reach for the live songs recorded in London in 1992. For those who had the chance to see them live or to watch the DVD, you know that Pavement’s setlists gathered tracks from all their discography, sometimes picked up at random or asked by the audience. Their live performances were always full of surprise, energy, lust, screams and hits. Hear Bob Nastanovich screaming his lines out on ‘Conduit for Sale’ and ‘No life Singed Her’ or everybody going insane on ‘Two States’, just like a depraved high school prom night band playing covers that no one recognizes but enjoys. ‘Home’ and ‘Baby Yeah’ seem to be unreleased songs to me but who cares ? Most of the 13 live songs are from S & E so I won’t repeat the same bullshit again, except that you must add the live performance chills to these smash hits.
Let’s put a literary end to my life of ease. The silent one has broken his vow. I suppose you wouldn’t like to come and live with a pack of dirty yelling grandmas and flea-bitten children ? Don’t jump to conclusions. I suddenly realized that I was foolish to talk.
-Angus Anderson (in submerged)
/feb 1st 2003/