10 September 2006

Pavement - Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe

Before Slanted & Enchanted, Pavement were a small band who really weren't recognsised further than a few friends and audiophiles who were lucky enough to have attended a gig, where they may have been presented with a cabbage by former drummer Gary Young. Young, Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs were not the 5-piece band that split up in 1999, but just 3 guys who were practically jamming in their garage, recording the results onto cassette. The 50-page booklet that comes with this reissue explains the process in more detail. "We'd set up a few small amps, no bass, with just the guitar played through a bass amp". Crude as the setup is, it actually works. Young had to run around the house starting and stopping the tape machine. Luckily they got the album together. It's maybe the most lo-fi thing I've ever heard, but the songs are fantastic enough to make up for it.
This album is often cited as one of the best and most important of the 90s. Spiral Stairs modestly comments that it "launched a thousand Weezers (in addition to Weezer)". If that's true, I appreciate this album just for that. The original 14 album tracks are, for me, the bulk of this album. Of course. There's not a weak song. Even the punk-ish shouting of 'Two States' and 'Conduit For Sale!' (in which Malkmus scream "I'M TRYING!" 16 times in a row for each chorus) are fantastic, even for me, an often electronically oriented music lover. Over half of these songs are real standouts, there's no point in listing them. It's not all angry screaming either, we get the thoughtful 'Here' and Zurich is Stained, adding an extra dimension to the album. The songs all flow, particularly 'Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17', which has has a near-perfect chorus melody, as well as Perfume-V. But they also contrast to singalong "ooo"s, in In the Mouth a Desert.
I haven't even got to the bonus tracks yet - a whopping 34 of them! After a second reissue (Crooked Rain Crooked Rain) Pavement look to be releasing pretty much every song they've ever made - fantastic news for people like me. There are some songs here that didn't make the album, thankfully they didn't fade away, or we would have missed some great material. We get 2 sessions with the late John Peel, with 7 surprisingly good songs and a version of 'Here'. The 'Watery, Domestic' EP and its outtakes aren't really anything extremely special for me, but you can't help but like Shoot the Singer and Greenlander, even if you won't be humming them on your way to school/work like Slanted & Enchanted's original works. To finish the 2nd disc there is an awesome concert of 13 songs, which includes a couple of new tracks.
I truly think that this is an essential album. Pavement haven't been noticed by today's youths, who think that Nirvana were the band of the 90s. If some of them heard Pavement, they'd be blown away. This is a good place to start.

Wikipedia articles: [1] [2], Amazon Page, a professional review.

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