Review Summary: Not many bands can take a bare-boned sound and make it utterly entertaining; Pavement is an exception.
Pavement has essentially two sides to them. On one hand they're music's best kept secret, an indie band that the casual music listener today might not know ever existed. However, on the other hand, Pavement is one of the most respected and critically acclaimed bands of their time who initially turned heads with the gem, Slanted and Enchanted. For an album that was released back in 1992, it's amazing how well it has stood the test of time. Call it raw emotion; call it primitive production. Either way, this album is truly something special. Thus, Slanted and Enchanted is one of the most important albums of the early '90s.
Stylistically, Pavement really carve out their own path on this LP. The lo-fi quality of Slanted and Enchanted adds to the adolescent tone of the album. It's quite remarkable how the band manages to turn this innately fuzzy sound on its head and use it to their advantage. So, while the album's infrastructure sounds very incipient, Stephen Malkmus and company supply all of the album's personality themselves, something that no artificial and supplementary ornamentation could duplicate. Not once does this LP feel unfocused. The album does house a few filler tracks, but even the filler tracks permit the band to display their sense of humor and their thoughtful appreciation for the simple things.
Pavement possess that uncanny talent of effortlessly spawning some of the most tantalizing melodies out there. "Zurich Is Stained", "In the Mouth a Desert", "Summer Babe (Winter Version)", and "Fame Throwa" all feed off of the band's most fundamental aspects, such as Malkmus's unrefined voice, the noisy guitar feedback, and a very nonchalant approach to music. Pavement never take themselves too seriously, but every now and then a track comes along that shows the band realizing their own incredible range. A prime example is the cleverly ambiguous and satirical "Here", the most beautiful song on the LP. Built on fragile percussion and unassuming guitars, this brilliant number allows the band to try out a different sonic technique than that of the preceding songs.
Part of what makes Slanted and Enchanted so entertaining is the fact that the band sounds like they're having fun in the studio themselves. On "Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era", the band plays off of one another, using a continuous stream of noise to sail along. The organic raw sound only enhances the notion that Pavement are straying from any kind of embellishment. Malkmus delivers the chorus of "Loretta's Scars" without any frills but still makes the song engaging. Pavement is not a band that overloads a listener's stereos with layers upon layers of sound. Pavement doesn't need to dress fancy for the occasion; they don't care enough anyway.
Fantastic hooks consistently populate Slanted and Enchanted. With "Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17", the band combines Malkmus's quirky energy with outlandish lyrics, underscored only by equally bewildering backing vocals and jagged guitar. It's hard not to be swept away by the song's seduction. The band definitely shows that they have immense talent that cannot be coached. Slanted and Enchanted is a dirty, ragged effort, but it never feels like Pavement doesn't have a new trick hidden up their sleeves. Aside from the few filler tracks, Slanted and Enchanted demonstrates some of the most astute songwriting and unadulterated musical dexterity. In this case, simple is great.
The tracks on this LP never exceed the four minute mark, but the album never feels too hasty. Pavement takes a bare-boned sound and makes it completely infectious and enjoyable. Not many artists can do that. To put it mildly, Slanted and Enchanted is a big album for indie rock, and, returning to it repeatedly, it's not hard to see why.
Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17
In the Mouth a Desert