Pavement? Slanted & Enchanted? Doesn’t it all seem like a pleasantly skewed figment of our musical imagination? Was an indie band ever that important? That defining? That cocky and yet that blasé?
Turns out Pavement was. It was 10 years ago that songwriters/guitarists SM (Stephen Malkmus) and Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannenberg) cobbled together a bunch of sonic scene sketches, smug, flattened vocal affectations, high-pop aspirations and distorted and jangly unfettered noise to unintentionally create Slanted & Enchanted. The LP is nothing short of a very demographically specific cultural caste (it is a cultural touchstone for a generation of thrift-store four-track heroes) and a Rosetta stone for indie rock itself. It was and is precious, but it was equally precocious too.
Revisiting Slanted & Enchanted via this new Luxe & Reduxe double disc a decade on is a bit of a revelation: Pavement actually rocked. The seemingly slapdash neo-dada lyrics of the record’s best-known cuts like “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” “Loretta’s Scars” and “Trigger Cut” provide entrée into a psyched-out twentysomething’s state of mind. Throughout, SM and Spiral Stairs’ guitars sear, intersect, collide and chug along with a sloppy beauty that’s easy to take for granted after two generations of kids have pilfered, butchered and expanded their language. (And with Slanted & Enchanted, you can argue that Pavement trapsman Gary Young became the most influential drummer since Moe Tucker.)
This loving repackaging includes the remastered original full-length, additional session recordings and a John Peel broadcast on the first disc. But it’s the second disc that makes it worth the price of admission.
Most of the time, bonus discs are so chock-full of doggerel and detritus that the record company should be made to send along a disclaimer. Not here. The second disc adds to the easily potable Pavement legacy. Now you don’t have to gather your 45s and baby-sit the turntable to hear these B-sides and rarities (another John Peel broadcast and outtakes from the Watery Domestic EP). Better still, 12 live tracks, captured at London’s Brixton Academy on Dec. 14, 1992 reaffirm the notion that Pavement is the father, son and holy ghost of indie bands. They shout, slop, finesse and otherwise rassle their way through a vice-tight-unto-loosey-goosey set. That would mean nothing if the live stuff didn’t also serve as a potent reminder of just how “rock” indie rock could be while still maintaining its smarter-than-thou distance (a feat few of the Pavement-spawned indie minions ever really grokked).
Of course, after ’92, the Clinton years saw Pavement becoming increasingly predictable as their popularity grew. An age-old story. Slanted & Enchanted: (Luxe & Reduxe) takes you back to the beginning of the end.
E-mail Chris Handyside at firstname.lastname@example.org.