Monday, October 27, 2008

A Pavement Primer

It seems to us that most listeners fall into one of two categories with Pavement: Those who love the band, and those who don't. There seems to be very little of folks "kind of" liking Pavement - those who are turned off by the band are pretty alienated, and those who have been turned on are devout. The thing is, we here at HAD are pretty sure that everyone would be in the first category, given the right exposure. To be frank, we used to be in the "don't get it" category, and then one day (unfortunately, after the band broke up) it just sort of clicked for us. The band has a pretty diverse body of work, and figuring out where to start can be tough. In fact, we'd be willing to guess that the breadth of their work has a lot to do with their apparent inaccesiblity to some. So, if you find yourself wondering how you might sink your teeth into some Pavement, HAD is here to help! (We've even included some choice cuts for the new listener...)

Westing By Musket And Sextant
While technically not an original album, this record is critical Pavement listening: it's a compilation of the singles and EPs that the band released prior to Slanted and Enchanted. This is some of the band's most experimental material, and frankly maybe not the best starting point. That being said, it's a great taste of why the band was hailed for breaking down sonic barriers from the very beginning. Choice cuts: "Box Elder", "She Believes"

Slanted and Enchanted
This is the band's first full length studio album, and according to Stephen Malkmus, the point at which the band "sold out". Presumably this was because the band signed to a label and stopped self releasing vinyl. That being said, this is definitely still some of Pavement's edgier material: the clashing guitars and noise experimentalism of Westing are still going strong, and Gary Young was still on drums. Again, if you have trouble with the noise rock, maybe not the best place to start, but immensely rewarding once you wrap your head around it. Choice cuts: "Summer Babe", "Trigger Cut", "Zurich Is Stained", "Here"

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
This is where Pavement really solidified as a band and delivered an album that pulled in legions of fans. Steve West was now on drums, and the lineup was the foundation for what would drive the band for the next five years. This disc is the automatic "go to" disc for many Pavement fans, and with good reason. It's fantastic front to back, has a perfect blend of the band's experimentalism and more accessible songwriting, and even features the semi-hit "Cut Your Hair". Choice cuts: "Cut Your Hair", "Gold Soundz", "Range Life", "Newark Wilder", "Silence Kid"

Wowee Zowee
Apparently this record is the fave of many hard core Pavement fans. To our ears it's always sounded somewhat disjointed: it doesn't really have a "feel" as an album, and hangs together in a manner that's closer to a compilation than a record. That being said, it has some great cuts, and definitely illustrates the transition in the band's sound to become a more song-oriented band, with less of an emphasis on dischord and distortion. Choice cuts: "Rattled By The Rush", "Grounded", "Flux = Rad"

Brighten the Corners
For us, this is the record that defines the second half of Pavement's career. Malkmus' songwriting and lyricism had matured, and the band had finessed their sound to be experimental while avoiding being harsh on the ears. The disc is a masterpiece, and each song is a reward unto itself. What's more, it's probably the band's most accessible record, and offers the listener some of the most choice moments Malkmus' wit. Choice cuts: "Stereo", "Transport Is Arranged", "Blue Hawaii", "We Are Underused", "Starlings Of The Slipstream"

Terror Twilight
We've made no secret of our love of this record, despite it not necessarily being at the top of every fan's list. The record is a fantastic combination of production values, songwriting, and experimentalism that blend together as the most cohesive record the band ever made. That being said, many feel that it's more a Malkmus album than a Pavement album, and lacks some of the band's character. We beg to differ: check this one out. Choice cuts: "And Carrot Rope...", "The Hexx", "You Are A Light",

So there you have it - Pavement's albums distilled for you in an easy-to-read beginners package. We realize it's not an end all be all on the topic, but hopefully we provided enough of a jumping off point that some of you will give it a whirl. If you need any more incentive, well, all these records are available on eMusic, so you can even sign up and hear them for free. Try it: You won't be sorry.


Anonymous said...

i might be an odd pavement fan. I LOVE crooked rain, don't really care for much else except "Here" from slanted...