Sunday, 20 April 2008



The blunt throw that is the first Pavement album is a startling affair.  My route into the band was all wrong.  I saw them at Reading 95 before I had even heard any of their records.  It is quite possible that I saw them before I had even seen or heard “Cut Your Hair” on MTV.  All I knew is that this was a band from America that supported Luton Town.  Finally I borrowed Wowee Zowee from Clacton library and recorded it onto cassette.  Later I would also find, borrow and copy Westing from the library.  What was this shit?  Eventually I hooked up with my future Gringo Records cohorts at a Urusei Yatsura gig and finally heard Slanted And Enchanted one Saturday morning in Halstead while hanging out with Joe from Lando.  It was like nothing I previously knew.

Pavement was always unique.  On a clear day they sounded retarded but to the trained/tuned ear/eye they were magnificent.  They were belligerently loose, one big intellectual in-joke not necessarily open to observers and outsiders.  They looked normal but didn’t act it.

A key early memory of mine attached to this album was during my rookie year in accountancy.  I had just hooked up with my record label buddies and my head remain firmly in indie rock.  However during the name I had to learn what to do with numbers/figures in Frinton-on-Sea and teaching me was a young Jewish girl called Elaine who god bless her had missed out somewhere on the personality stakes.  She was stagnant and frigid and not necessarily the best person in the world to be teaching anything.  And there was me not necessarily the best person in the world to learn anything.  Then one day when I fluffed a bank reconciliation and she became visibly annoyed by this putting right my work for me out of instinct I stared out the back window of the office and without realising began singing “I’m trying, I’m trying” as per “Conduit For Sale!”  This stopped her in her tracks and revealed me as the idiot that I am.  What could I do though; I spent most bank reconciliations thinking about The Simpsons.

Indeed it is “Conduit For Sale!” which closest resembles an existing Fall song in “New Face In Hell” from Grotesque.  However when the dust settles it is “Two States” that is aesthetically the track most likely.  His voice even sounds like he is coming from the north of England.

Elsewhere on “Zurich Is Stained” it is exhilarating in the way that Malkmus casually allows room for the listener to finish his line “I am the one…” with “who fucking loves you”.  Don’t tell me that was not intended.

At times there is a subtle euphoria attached to the process.  I won’t believe anyone that tells me they don’t feel a thing off the back of opener “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”.  It’s the sound of sunny freedom and a moment at a festival when not surrounded by twats and jerks.  Here is the love.  Similarly the charge of the accompanying “Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite” leads a jubilant charge with its responsive backing (“I’ve got a message for you” etc).

There is a terrific energy attached to this record.  The underlying fizz of the distorted offers a blistering charge.  As tracks such as “Perfume-V” motion with gusto they hang in the air with suspense and excitement.  Similarly “No Life Singed Her” is frenetic eventually sounding like a child throwing a tantrum or fit.  Motion suggests Malkmus might not be above such things.

“I was dressed for success.  But success it never comes”

When the band split up first time round they ended on the track “Here”.  Delivered in what feels like slow motion it seems to sum up an attitude and era.  In reflective measure it resembles failure snatched from the jaws of victory.  For me this is the slacker ethos in song.  In execution the band barely sound like they can be bothered as Malkmus speaks of bad jokes and running out of money subtly it becomes a whine.  In subsequent years the song has been executed appropriately and placed in such positions within teenage angst movies less commanding and credible.  “Here” was a dilution from the off.

Despite such an apparent sense of duty the band appears to abstain from responsibility on “Zurich Is Stained” as calmly the disclaimer “but it’s not my fault” is sure to be added to the message/note.

With smarts and knowing the record retains a royal pace right to the end.  Appropriately it begins to wind down with “Fame Throwa” and a cryptic salute.  From here the equally confusing “Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era” offers another come down before lazy close of “Our Singer” proves the perfect absolute ending.  It tucks the listener in and sends them to sleep.  Band and beneficial bed bound both.

This is how it’s done.

Thesaurus moment: formed.

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