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Pavement: Retrospective

A look back on the discography of Pavement, a band who changed the 90's in many ways. Played a big part in defining alternative rock of the time, and created 2, maybe 3 of the best albums of the decade, in that genre.
1Pavement
Slay Tracks (1933-1969)


Slay Tracks (1933-1969) - The humble, debut EP by one of the most important indie rock bands of the 90's. The band hadn't established a steady lineup or fanbase yet, however, at just under 14 minutes, it's already all there: the fuzzy distortion, Malkmus' recognizable voice, and his direct, simplistic (and nonsensical at times) lyrics. It's gritty, it's raw, it's loud, there's an undeniable energy about it. From the hardcore punk inspired tunes You're Killing Me, Maybe Maybe and Price Yeah!, to the indie pop naivety of Box Elder and She Believes, Slay Tracks is an impressive debut and a fantastic addition to a fan's collection. Highlights: Box Elder, She Believes, Price Yeah! 4/5.
2Pavement
Demolition Plot J-7


Demolition Plot J-7 - Many people seem to hold Pavement's 2nd EP, considered responsible for further establishing Pavement's cult fanbase, in a very high regard. Apparently, I'm not one of those people. Being a fan of a majority of the band's catalog, I couldn't hide my disappointment when I heard Demolition. Barely unlistenable, thanks in large part to the ridiculous amount of distortion in Malkmus' guitar and voice, one can't make much of what he is singing about. While the opening track Forklift shows some promise, the remaining songs don't seem able to recapture the magic and imediateness of the opener. Not a fan at all of Demolition Plot J-7, though I can understand why some people may love it. Highlights: Forklift. 2/5.
3Pavement
Perfect Sound Forever


Perfect Sound Forever - A big improvement from J-7 in my opinion, Pavement's 3rd EP showcases a band finding its style more than ever, incorporating it more and more in the music and feeling a lot more comfortable in a songwriting department. Containing early Pavement classics such as From Now On and Home, and a deep cut loved by most fans Debris Slide, Perfect Sound Forever isn't a perfect set of songs and not necessarily Pavement's best offering up to that point, but it serves as a turning point, a milestone for the Californian band. Instead of further pursuing the fuzzfest of J-7, Perfect Sound Forever traces back to the Slay Tracks days, emulating Pavement's punk rock influences at a steady pace. Highlights: From Now On, Debris Slide, Home. 3/5.
4Pavement
Slanted and Enchanted


Slanted And Enchanted - Finally fans get to hear Pavement's debut LP. Was it worth the wait? Man, it definitely was. Certainly one of the most influential indie rock records of the 90's, one that inspired a generation of up and coming slacker rockers, Slanted And Enchanted embodies all that is classic Pavement in one record. Featuring lo-fi production and relying on Malkmus' gentle and unique voice, the band's debut is the one that probably has the most charm. From the catchy indie pop of opener Summer Babe and Zurich Is Stained, to the tragically beautiful Loretta's Scars and In The Mouth A Desert, Slanted And Enchanted is one of the most well rounded Pavement albums. For many fans, the band's best. For me, it's not a perfect ride. However, whether it's due to the frenetic vocals, the pounding drums or the buzzing guitars, there's a relentless energy about it. Highlights: Summer Babe, In The Mouth A Desert, Conduit For Sale!, Loretta's Scars, Here. 4/5.
5Pavement
Watery, Domestic


Watery, Domestic - Pavement didn't want to waste time after the underground success of the excellent debut Slanted And Enchanted, and quickly began writing songs again in between concerts. They eventually wrote enough tunes for a new EP, eventually titled Watery, Domestic. In my opinion, Pavement's best EP ever and one of the band's best works, containing 2 or 3 of my favorite songs. Sonically, it represents a great transition between the raw sound of the debut and the slightly more polished one of its classic successor. In 11 minutes, the classic Pavement sound is always present and highly enjoyable. From the gentle and catchy, distortion-laden guitar riff of Frontwards, to the beautiful vocal delivery in the chorus of Texas Never Whispers, the dazzling Lions and the superb outro of the closer Shoot The Singer, there's not a single dud in Watery, Domestic. A must-have for any fan. Highlights: Frontwards, Lions (Linden), Shoot The Singer (1 Sick Verse). 4/5.
6Pavement
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain


Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Absolutely fantastic. If I had to describe Pavement's 2nd LP in no more than 2 words, that's what I would say. The sonic transitional period found in Watery, Domestic had now developed into a slightly cleaner sound for the band, after the messy and vile production of Slanted. Few could imagine how amazing that decision would be for Pavement, as it resulted in what is quite possibly the band's masterpiece and one of the finest alternative rock records of the 90's. Words don't do it enough justice. It's all there, all there could possibly be to love about Pavement. I can't tell you how many times I've sung along to Silence Kid, Cut Your Hair, Stop Breathin' and, the quintessential Pavement tune, Gold Soundz. Every song is a classic. Well, maybe except for 5-4=Unity. Even the often dismissed, dazzling Hit The Plane Down is excellent. Classic. Hightlights: Silence Kid, Elevate Me Later, Stop Breathin', Gold Soundz, Range Life, Fillmore Jive. 5/5.
7Pavement
Wowee Zowee


Wowee Zowee - Pavement's 1995 effort is probably the band's most unique and strangest album. As much as Malkmus may hate it, it's hard not to compare Pavement's case to Nirvana's. After creating some "could've been" alternative rock singles having a pop tendency, namely the ironic Cut Your Hair and the tragic Gold Soundz, Wowee Zowee could well be the album that landed the band rock stardom. But, as Nirvana deliberately gave a middle finger to the industry on In Utero, Pavement put out Wowee Zowee. Not always as loved by the fans as it is today, the 1995 album is the most baffling, bizarre and hard to describe of the band. But, given a proper listen, it's pretty damn excellent. In fact, it's the last "classic" Pavement album. The 18-song effort is Pavement's very own middle finger to the press. And it contains some of Pavement's best work. If you don't know where to start listening, look up Grounded. Highlights: Blackout, Grounded, Father To A Sister Of Thought, Flux=Rad. 4/5.
8Pavement
Pacific Trim


Pacific Trim - You listen to Give It A Day, the first song from Pacific Trim, and it gives you a clear picture. Showing more resemblance to Crooked Rain and WZ's most mellow moments, Give It A Day is a buried gem. Steadily displaying Malkmus' fine lyrics that don't mean much but you can somehow relate to, it's one of Pavement's most memorable moments. In fact, Pacific Trim would do just fine if it had only Give It A Day. The rest of the EP does fine on its own as well, rest assured. You can't help but to laugh at Malkmus' classic one-liners, the most obvious one here found on Gangsters And Pranksters ("I've got all this Harvard LSD, why won't anybody f*ck me?"). Gangsters goes back to WZ once more, mainly due to its unconventional structure and unclear but entertaining guitar riff. All in all, Pacific Trim is an enjoyable EP, except for the occasional dud (Saganaw being the main offender), which adds more depth to the Pavement catalog. Highlights: Give It A Day, I Love Perth. 3.5/5.
9Pavement
Brighten the Corners


Brighten The Corners - One may call BtC Pavement's "maturity" album. Even if it's not exactly so, that is visible in the music itself, for the most part a bit more mellow, and in Malkmus' more self-conscious lyrics. While some fans may fear that the band's sudden concern about getting old and life may be a detracting factor, BtC does present some quality material. The fierceful opening track Stereo deserves a spot among the best tracks in the band's collection, the love song (?) Shady Lane shows Malkmus at his most charming, and of course, what better song could you have for your summer than the classic tune Date W/ IKEA? However, I'd be lying if I said BtC is in the same quality as his predecessors. The more reflective tones of tunes such as Old To Begin and Passat Dream make it clear that there's an end of an era for Pavement, as BtC is a bit far from the magic of Slanted and Crooked Rain. Highlights: Stereo, Shady Lane, Embassy Row, We Are Underused. 3.5/5.
10Pavement
Terror Twilight


Terror Twilight - The 5th and final album by Pavement is the most tedious and uninspired one of the bunch. Fans seem to be divided, they mostly love it or hate it. As usual in such cases, I stand in the middle. Though it's a nice album to keep you company in a sunny Sunday afternoon, it's not an album that will have big replay value, and not a very satisfying one, considering who it comes from. In fact, Terror Twilight is barely a Pavement album. Save for the more inspired moments of pure nonsense found in Folk Jam and Cream Of Gold, and the surprisingly emotional, effective ballads Spit On A Stranger and Major Leagues, TT is an excessively calming listen, which lacks some of the emotion that made the early Pavement stuff so memorable. None of it is terrible. But not a lot of it will have you wanting to come back for more. Terror Twilight is a sad farewell to a band who didn't have a long run, but left behind a huge legacy. Highlights: Spit On A Stranger, Folk Jam, Cream Of Gold. 3/5.
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