Review Summary: Even more classic than before!2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Stephen Malkmus - Guitar/Vocals
Spiral Stairs - Guitar/Vocals
Mark Ibold - Bass
Gary Young - Drums
Ten years after the smashing lo-fi success of Slanted and Enchanted
, and three years after the band's dissolvement, Matador released a special package for all the Pavement fans who still couldn't get enough. Combining the power of their early-era EPs, Peel Sessions, and a concert bookending disc two, the package only serves to accentuate each and every one of the band's fortes.
01 - Summer Babe [Winter Version]
The jangly guitar spindling wraps loosely around Malkmus' bored barroom scenery, and that lazy kick in the pants aims the album in the right track immediately. Probably one of their most known songs, and one of the obvious highlights. In the accompanying booklet, Malkmus writes how the song almost didn't make it on the album, but Spiral said "that song is great, we can't lose that one." And now it's immortalized.
02 - Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17
Opening with a fractured guitar riff that keeps the song light and buoyant, with lyrics that seem to push a summertime slacker-type of agenda. The "tra-la-las" that sweep in the chorus give the song a tinge of nostalgia. After the song ends, there's seventeen seconds of a chord riff before dying out -- that's actually part of the never-before-released "Nothing Ever Happens," which is included at the disc's end. Either way, this song's a keeper.
03 - No Life Singed Her
Malkmus' wailing ushers in the third song, a raucous punk riff propelling the song forward. The imagery that wells up -- ridges, summer, angels being carved in two -- are typical of the songwriter, but it all meshes even if there isn't much understanding to be squeezed out of it. Personally, this is one of my favorite songs by Pavement.
04 - In the Mouth a Desert
Contemplative much? Malkmus' sings of oil-well love, and "if it's underground, out of sight" could it "make enough sense to me?" Feedback guitars serve as a good foil to his sincerity, and the oscillating "OooOooOOO!"s that swerve with the poignant solo are spot-on. Another immediate highlight.
05 - Conduit for Sale!
Not quite accessible as the rest, the song displays Malkmus' wordsmithing power, setting it against an off-kilter riff. Although the lyrics are cryptic as ever, one can make out the framework of a story about land dealing and real estate. Or something. It's over in under three minutes, so it shouldn't hamper the musical flow any.
06 - Zurich is Stained
A light-hearted tune where the singer's POV says he's "not one half of the problem" and asks for someone to "hold me back or just let me go." The intent isn't clear, but it's still gorgeous.
07 - Chesley's Little Wrists
Even if this is the first throwaway (clocks in at 1:15), it's not too bad. Basically a miniature jam session with a guitar snaking through some feedback, while Malkmus mumbles (mostly) inaudibly. The funny rapidfire syllables at the end are funny, though.
08 - Loretta's Scars
Always the underrated masterpiece, the lolling guitar strumming wraps and crashes along the optimist's chorus: "From now on I can see the sun/makes me nervous, makes me run." To boot, there are even two guitar solos -- simplistic in nature, but still of a high lo-fi quality (if that makes sense). My favorite song on the entire album; the "ooh-ooh-ooh"s at the end really romanticize it. Just for readers information, there's nothing morbid about the song. Highlight.
09 - Here
Now, if there wasn't already enough accolades piled on this, this tale of romance when "everything's ending here" is jarring because it's neither got the distortion or odd rythms of the previous eight songs. It's beautiful, and 'though I hesitate to call it a Malkmus ballad, it's very close. When Malkmus says "I'll be waiting, waiting where/everything's ending here," it gives off a sense of perservering in the face of going nowhere. Highlight.
10 - Two States
A pick-me-up from the sad song preceeding, this drum-driven ode to the Civil War hits all the right notes. Not even two minutes in length, there's ample time to tell the story of "two states" and their "forty...million...daggers!" Spiral sings on this song, which is also a change-up, and there's still enough time for a jaunt of a solo. Cutesy kind of song.
11 - Perfume-V
A bit upbeat even if the lyrics seem to suggest covering up a murder, the throbbing main riff breaks into flatlining feedback. The concussive bass kicks in at the chorus and Malkmus' wordplay comes up again: "she's got the radio active and I don't feel okay." It's a little bleak when returning to the main verse, but it's not dire by any means.
12 - Fame Throwa
Drums set to a weird guitar rhythm, the song'll no doubt a bit too weird for some people's tastes. Luckily, the there's a forceful guitar part amongst the thin, repeated riff that can salvage the song. It pretends to end on a hurried note then comes back for one last hurrah..and there's still a minute left. Kinda zany, the wordplay is fun too.
13 - Jackals, False Grails - The Lonesome Era
As close to an instrumental as you can get on the initial fourteen songs, the repeated lyric of "I've got one holy life to live/I've got one holy life to give" plays along a flittering echo of a guitar. It's a little anxious, but works decently when the wah-wah solo takes over.
14 - Our Singer
Just a simple drumbeat and fills for the most part, Malkmus spins an pining ode, his voice becoming more forceful as the song extends. It's a nice change from the chaos that's been shown on the other songs.
15 - Summer Baby (7" Version)
There's no real change from the first song except this is two seconds shorter. If you're fond of the first song (and who ain't?), you'll probably like it. It's like the disc is playing from the beginning...
16 - Mercy Snack: The Laundromat
A lazy, whining guitar croons with Malkmus in the stream-of-consciousness song. It's very short so its drone gets over quick.
17 - Baptist Blacktick
FUNNY! The story is about the singer's POV and how the "sad sucker" Blacktick left him in Damascus. It's really got a nice mastodon stomp for drumming and the guitars back up Malkmus, like an angry mob storming down the street to lynch some evildoer. Though he's been half-singing/half-speaking the lyrics as is his style, he really yells at the very end of this song, complete with "Aiyeeee!" theatrics.
18 - My First Mine
A nice tune of mining in the old west, the song is elevated with great lyrics and a jangly hook. Decent all-'round, although there's an odd keyboard overlap on the guitar solo that's a little needling...
19 - Here (Alternative Mix)
If you like Here, you'll like this one. In fact, you won't be able to tell the difference since there's only two seconds cut out.
20 - Nothing ever Happens
Not really eventful, not really filler, the song is a bit static. If you recall, the opening riff is heard at the end of "Trigger Cut" through the fantastic editing process. Spiral sings this time with Malkmus yelling "I'm fragile! I'm fragile!" in the background.
21 - Circa 1792
The first cut from the first Peel Sessions is a grungy doozy, one of the best on the entire disc. It's a sailor's tale and how a man "met her/ when I was a drunk cadet." It's got a nice lo-fi feel to it until the serpentine distortion kicks in at the chorus. Also one of the longer songs, which is definitely a good thing in this case. Highlight most definitely.
22 - Kentucky Cocktail
Another grungy b-side from the first Peel Sessions, this one crawls on its belly, picks itself up, then falls back down again. It's another stream-of-consciousness "story" by Malkmus, although there's some great couplets here, one being: "I've got a system, I've got a line / I'm on the inside, right every time!" Highlight.
23 - Secret Knowledge of Backroads
Just a twinkle in the twilight, this song is a sleeper with even a bit of piano in the thin guitar. It's reminiscent of "Pueblo" from the Wowee Zowee years, and it doesn't really pick up the pace. It doesn't have to, though -- it's pretty good on its own.
24 - Here
Yes, this song makes a third appearance, only this time it's live. After hearing the album version so often, on and off this rerelease, I'd say this is the best. It's got Malkmus' humor right off the bat -- "I was dressed for SUCK!........cess" -- and hearing Pavement's nuances live is a grand thing. If you like Here, you'll like this version as well. Highlight.
1 - Texas Never Whispers
Disc two opens with the "Watery, Domestic" EP's first track. It stuffs up the speakers with distortion right off the bad, then carves a pretty melody from there. It's deceptive since one may automatically hate it and it wins you over in the course of its Pavement-standard 3:08. Highlight.
2 - Frontwards
"I am the only one searching for you / and if I get caught, then the search is through," Malkmus says, weaving his high-caliber tale of longing. It's got a bunch of urban imagery, and he even jokes with himself saying "I've got so much style, it's wastin'." A kicking solo breaks for the second verse, then outros the album. Highlight.
3 - Lions (Linden)
A short but sweet tale of football, once again showing how effortlessly Malkmus can write a good song. When he says "Open up your purses for the boys who reimburse us," you might actually do it. It has a No-Cal v. So-Cal feeling to it, which isn't too surprising given where the band was situated at the time.
4 - Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)
Probably one of the best songs Pavement crafted, it's almost a shame that it took ten years to get put onto a main album. Malkmus dispenses his wisdom ("I've seen a saint but I forgot to flag 'em down when they passed") with much nonpareil, and it has that urban longing attached to it again. No singers were killed in the making of this song.
5 - Sue Me Jack
The first of three songs from the Watery Sessions, SMJ is a creepy bass-driven tune with a thin, buzzsaw riff that's reminiscent of smoke in a dark alley. Malkmus wails like usual and mumbles the lyrics at the end. Still pretty good for a b-side.
6 - So Stark (You're A Skyscraper)
Plodding along at a very slow and constant pace, the song doesn't really pick up. Not bad by any means, but when Malkmus says "it's flat" in his lyrics, you could almost attribute it to this song. The semi-come-hither chorus is the saving grace.
7 - Greenlander
A beautiful, wintry ode, the scenery recalled is almost of unrequited love ("We can bury crimson lockets / filled with dirt / and when the April thaw / brings us out again / we can bless the arrows / and the sun won't stall"). It's so great, in fact, you'll forget that Malkmus sings a little flat. Highlight.
8 - Rain Ammunition
The first of three songs from the second Peel Session, this instrumental is like a piece of shrapnel in some warzone. It's a bit downbeat but the guitar riff's cocky swagger gives it a nice flavor. I always think of a soldier sitting on a vacant bench at a train station, myself, but that's just me being weird.
9 - Drunks with Guns
A cutesy guitar riff preceeds a down-and-out guitar rythym. It's reminiscent of "Colorado" from the CRCR rerelease, but this one's not as fun to listen to. Mostly because of the "aagh!" yelling on every second beat. The second (main) riff is pretty cool, though.
This slice-of-life tale is almost like a detective story, with Malkmus talking in all sorts of points of view. Decent but not stellar.
The List of Dorms
This one sounds like it was cut live and it's pretty cool. Malkmus wails about "going home" before some weird bass interplay. He even screams in the background, but it's faint so it's almost like he went backstage to do it. Kinda funny, the song ends the same way it begun.
12 - Conduit for Sale!
If you don't like the studio version, you might like this one better since it's got the on-stage flair. The performance (which takes place 12/14/92, over the course of the next twelve songs) starts off tight and isn't nearly as dry and pristine as its disc-one counterpart. When Pavement dirties their own song up a bit and shows their flaws, that actually makes the song better.
13 - Fame Throwa
Luckily, the performance leads off with the two odder songs so the rest are even more enjoyable. As before, this song's zany atmosphere can be a bit off-putting, but it's been sped up when it's live to great effect. Recommended if you hate the studio track.
14 - Home
A Pavement-penned track that would later appear on the "Westing (by Sextant and Musket)" album where it was a bit minimalist, this one's got a nice classic rock/R.E.M. feeling to it. If it's a love story I'll never know, but the guitar's milked for all its worth. Highlight.
15 - Perfume-V
The song that had the crystal-clear, zig-zag feeling now does doubletime on the main riff while the chorus is even bleaker than before. Superior version of the two on the rerelease.
16 - Summer Babe
As if this track couldn't get its third showing! The drumstick leads off into this slacker anthem but doesn't change much except for Malkmus' vocal stylings. Superior version of the three on the disc, I'd say.
17 - Frontwards
The static-y parts from the EP have been cleared up a bit and the song now has a thinner feeling about it. Malkmus injects the chorus with a bit of dynamism now, though, instead of deadpanning it. :p
18 - Angel Carver Blues / Mellow Jazz Docent
Another track that made it onto the b-sides compendium "Westing (By Sextant and Musket)" shows up here and does, in fact, show some jazz improv in comparison to the normal version. The song picks up steam after the intro although it's never overly loud; it just holds one attention well due to the tight performance. Highlight.
19 - Two States
The energy from the S&E version carries over here, spilling over at the brim. It's about 1.5 faster with a few liberties taken on part of the guitar and Malkmus' accented speech. Both him and Spiral sing here, and the "ooh-ooh!" part is still funny.
20 - No Life Singed Her
Pretty good performance, but since the production value of the studio version has better loud-soft-loud-soft parts -- they're blurred a bit here. Shouldn't matter much, as this version isn't too inferior.
21 - So Stark
Slowing things down a bit, the set does a take on "So Stark" from the Watery Sessions, and it's in fact better, using the whining guitar heard in "Rain Ammunition." The rhythm guitar's a bit better, too, and it comes to the forefront here.
22 - Box Elder
Probably the best song on the second disc, this one really shoots the lights out. It comes out crystal clear, Malkmus' voice emotes (wow!) and the musicianship is flawless. If you've heard the version from "Westing," you'll know that this is about twenty thousand times better. Malkmus sings about "going back to Box Elder, MO" and it's got a nice leaving-the-nest feel. Or maybe it's a returning-to-the-nest feel. Either way, blatant highlight here.
23 - Baby Yeah
Malkmus repeats the title a bit, managing the same length as Box Elder. A little sparse guitar work and not that interesting.
24 - In the Mouth a Desert
A decent closing that "goes out to Sonic Youth," ITMAD carries over in the same vein as its studio version. A bit of improv in the intro and the bass/drum sounds bar larger now; it was downplayed before. The vocal back-and-forthing between Spiral and Stephen is tip-top, too, and the second disc ends with joyous applause.
D1 - Summer Babe (Winter Version)
D1 - No Life Singed Her
D1 - Loretta's Scars
D1 - Here
D1 - Circa 1792
D1 - Kentucky Cocktail
D1 - Here [LIVE]
D2 - Texas Never Whispers
D2 - Frontwards
D2 - Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)
D2 - Greenlander
D2 - Home [LIVE]
D2 - Angel Carver Blues / Mellow Jazz Docent [LIVE]
D2 - Box Elder [LIVE]
D2 - In the Mouth a Desert [LIVE]
While the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain rerelease may have had its share of filler tracks, Pavement's first album is surrounded by a wellspring of musical material, all of it worth a listen. Some rereleases are just ways to garnet pocket change with stuff everyone's already heard, but with over thirty new songs, Pavement has the competition beat far and wide. If only all reissues could be this rich in value.