Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted

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1. ”Chesley’s Little Wrists” is the single worst Pavement song to exist on the first four Pavement records. (Counter to your counter: “Brinx Job” is fun.)

2. Drummer Gary Young (who doesn’t play on any other Pavement album) sounds like he’s auditioning for Bad Moon Rising, by which I mean he’s really big on the toms and inserting tom-rolls wherever he can. Sometimes, this can lead to bits of magic (ie. “Summer Babe”), but it gets overbearing overall; there’s particularly a disconnect between him (metronomically pounding the toms to keep time) and the rest of the band on “Here” (one of the two most wistful songs on the album, with “Zurich is Stained”).

3. No one who can come with so many A-grade melodies so casually should be derided as a slacker.

4. The seemingly nonsense choruses of “Perfume-V” (“the radioactive” as a noun; the contradictory “makes me feel okay / I don’t feel okay”) are the most poignant lyrics on the album.

5. There are two Fall tributes on the album: “Conduit for Sale!” (based off “New Face in Hell” from 1980’s Grotesque (After the Gramme)) and “Two States” (based off “The Classical” from 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour). Neither add much, but frankly, there aren’t many songs where the tribute gets nailed as much as it does on the latter; when Stephen Malkmus goes “There is no culture,” it always sends me momentarily back to “The Classical.” But I threw that on immediately afterwards, and there’s just such a difference in sound! Which is to say the lo-fi recording (all they had access to at the time) sometimes simply doesn’t help the record. Sometimes it does, as on “No Life Singed Here” with Malkmus’ shouting and the bass-heavy coda.

6. There’s a famous quotation by the Fall’s curmudgeon on early Pavement: “It’s just The Fall in 1985, isn’t it? They haven’t got an original idea in their heads”, and methinks Mark E. Smith was onto something. Hell, Spiral Stairs has admitted as much: “Yeah… it’s true! We didn’t have any original ideas. They were all coming from our record collection. That’s all we were doing. We were just a little more obvious about it.” Put it this way: whereas early Pavement sounds like Dinosaur Jr. or the Fall, on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain-onwards, they sounded like R.E.M. and the Replacements and struck out a territory of their own.

Which isn’t to say that great records need to be original! Want an example? This Nation’s Saving Grace is just Can in 1972, isn’t it? And this one is great, but it’s also the least great album of the four Pavement records everyone should have. Instead, what’s happened is that because this one’s influential (quoting Stereogum‘s Amrit Singh on the album’s 20th anniversary: “It is, after all, the archetypal lo-fi indie sound personified: While grunge bands were riding their polished stomp boxes and high-end studios to premium Tower Records display cases, Pavement reveled in a smeary wash across the EQ spectrum: Scott Kannberg’s bass up front, Malkmus’s guitars dialed into some alchemically shitty/perfect distortion, and Gary Young’s rickety drums punching in and keeping time, sorta”) and because some garbage policy that decrees artists with succinct discographies can only have one classic album under their name, this one gets much more attention. Put simply: the next three all have better songwriting, which in turn leads to better songs. This one hides that fact.

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4 responses to “Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted

  1. 1 – Discuss! Haha 🙂

    2 – Thing with Gary was it seems he was pretty wild. Did you see Slow Century, the documentary? I recommend it!

    3 – They really did seem to fart great tunes. Amazing.

    4 – “some of” the most poignant lyrics. There’s plenty of gold in them thar hills! 🙂

    5 – Sometimes sounding like the Fall isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I figure. Besides, it’s a natural fit! Yay!

    6 – For me it’s not total homage, though. I think they have that ‘something’ of their own despite being obvious about it all.

    It’s possible they were just naturally building off Slay Tracks and Demolition Plot J-7, and this was the result. Anyway, it’s pretty rare for a first album to be the definitive sound of a band (change/growth is natural). Pavement grew (in awesome ways) as time went on, but I still figure this is an important piece in their development and I agree with your A- completely!*

    Well done!

    * My incredible bias towards all things Pavement may skew any comment I leave about the band!

    • I love this band to bits and pieces and have only ever met one person who was actively into them before I met them. 😦

      What a horrible world it is out there!

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