I can't believe no one's written a writeup for this amazing album yet. Leave it to Joe Q. Generic to educate you ignorant masses.
Pavement's first record is one of indie rock's classics, a sloppy and flawed record, but one all the more beautiful for it. Like all great albums, it holds its own time and place inside it, but can also hold the listener's memories as well.
Summer Babe (Winter Version) is as great an introduction to Pavement as one could want. Two chords, A and D, the most basic ingredients of rock n' roll, played with hideous creaking distortion and the lackadaisical cool that makes Pavement so infectious. Though it's not quite as great as opener as Silence Kit, off their Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, it's a great piece of twisted pop in itself.
The second track, Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17 has a timeless pop melody that belies its ridiculous title. Stephen Malkmus never sounded better when he mumbles out the lyrics, which seem like they're just popping into his head the very moment he sings them, but yet still ring perfectly. Lies and betrayals, fruit covered nails, eeeeeelectricity and lust! Classic. The backup vocals are sublime, the "sha la la la"s even moreso. It's even got a jokey fade-out that leads back into what sounds like a completely different song, which Pavement eventually turned into its own song, called "Nothing Ever Happens" on the re-release of this album.
Next comes No Life Singed Her which, although a fine song in its own right, doesn't exactly measure up to some of the moments of pop genius on this record. It's most notable for Malkmus shouting "MOTHER-FUCKING CUNT!" Not a song you want to play for your grandmother. Except my grandmother. She's rad.
In the Mouth A Desert, though, is a perfect example of Pavement's pop genius. Everything's executed perfectly, from the buildup of guitars, that oh-so-important drum fill, the wonderfully ugly sound, and Malkmus falling asleep at the mic. It all leads up to that glorious guitar hook, I'm really sorry about that!!!
Well I've been crowned the King of Id, and it is all we have, so wait to hear the words, and they're diamond sharp, I can open it up and it's up and down.
Usually I'm a real nitpicker when it comes to lyricism, but Malkmus is an exception. His meaningless babbling is just so goddamn cool that I'd be disappointed if these songs had meanings. It's best to attach your own meanings to songs, I've always thought. This song always reminds me of one of the greatest nights of my life, when I stayed up all night, drunkenly singing Pavement songs with one of my heroes. He was too drunk to remember how to play that wonderful hook on his keyboard, so we just sang it. That is rock n' roll. Right there. That last sentence. If I had to sum up rock and roll in one sentence, it would be "He was too drunk to remember how to play that wonderful hook on his keyboard, so we just sang it."
I think the real beauty of this record is how the songs soak up your own experiences. If Malkmus was singing about real things in these songs, they wouldn't be half as beautiful.
Conduit For Sale straight up rips off the riff from The Fall's New Face In Hell. Not to mention that Malkmus' drawl owes just as much to Mark E. Smith as it does to Lou Reed and Thurston Moore. QUIT NAMEDROPPING, YOU HIPSTER FUCK.
Anyway, this song reminds me of heart surgery
, which I suppose isn't the best thing to have a song remind you of, but it doesn't make me sad, it just makes me love Pavement even more.
Zurich Is Stained is another great amazing gorgeous little gem of a pop song, and another song I've sung at half-awake after hour parties with coked-up rock n' roll heroes. Some of our best friends are three minutes long but it's perfect in its brevity, and much cooler for it. The slightly off-key slide guitar and ba-pa-da-das make this song absolutely perfect. Possibly my favorite Pavement song.
Chesley's Little Wrists comes next. It's either a brilliant cacophony of loose guitars and drums, or messy filler. You make the call. I'm bogged! I'M BOGGED DOWN! I love it.
Loretta's Scars is another amazing noisy piece of lucid perfect pop. This song reminds me of sitting on a bench in the park behind my house, as my depressed best friend laid in the grass and both of us shared defeated sighs, while this song played loudly on his headphones. The only thing I could get out of him that day was "Loretta's. Scaaaahs." I'll never forget that moment. Heartbroken indie rock records like this one and Archers of Loaf's classic Icky Mettle were the soundtrack to our suburban angst and teenage loneliness. Ironically, it was like fifteen years after they were released. This is classic rock to me. As D. Boon said, "Narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me. My story could be his songs. I'm his soldier child." Although, me, Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan to me. I love Bob Dylan, The Minutemen, and Pavement.
As if this album couldn't get any better, next comes Here the cleanest, prettiest, and most gorgeous ballad Pavement ever wrote. The bullshit nonsense Malkmus spews is all the more meaningful for it's meaninglessness, and the off-kilter guitars and cracking vocals have more beauty than an endless army of corporate rock drones.
The next three songs are all good, (they're Two States, Perfume-V, and Fame Throwa) but they all seem to run together to me. I guess this marks the weakest point of the album, as I can't gush about these songs as I did some of the above, but it's nothing worth skipping. They've got really great choruses, at least. Especially Perfume-V.
She's got the radio active, and it makes me feel okay, I don't feel okay...
Sounds like it was lifted out of a classic song that's always existed but was never tapped until '92, when Pavement pulled it out of the same reservoir that The Stones claimed to have pulled Sympathy for the Devil.
Nearing the end of the album, Jackals, False Grails: the Lonesome Era competes with Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17 for the weirdest song title on an album notorious for its weird song titles. It's a classic cut of indie rock, too, with its winding guitar hook and menacing atmosphere. Possibly the noisiest song on the album, it's a perfect aggressive ending before the completely bare and stripped closer, Our Singer which relies on one lazily-hit chord, and is one of the weakest album closers on a totally great album that I can think of. Luckily, Pavement realized the power of a great album closer on their next record, with ends with the fantastic epic Fillmore Jive.
Well, there we go. I feel I've said enough about this amazing album already. But you can only get so much from words. At the risk of repeating that oft-repeated quote that is attributed to a different musician every time, from Frank Zappa to Elvis Costello, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," it's better to listen to a record than listen to me tell you about it. Go pick up Slanted and Enchanted. Or download it. I don't care. This is indie rock, here. If I told you not to download it, I might as well hand in my indie rock badge right now.