Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe

Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe

Nostalgia is transformative. In marketplace logic, to be remembered is to be remade entirely, perhaps even to be reborn. Witness the way Kurt Cobain's dark narcissism circa 1993 mutated, by way of a reprinted diary and "that new Nirvana song," into a purity and righteousness that would have impressed Cobain himself--even if he would have been hard pressed to match it. Nirvana's legend will probably be rewritten many times, and now, with the expanded reissue of Pavement's seminal 1992 full-length debut Slanted and Enchanted, so will the celebrity of Stephen Malkmus's band.

When Pavement moved from the genre-breaking free-for-all of Slanted to the genre-defining studiousness of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, they at once defined their legacy and froze it--these albums would be forever remembered as a blueprint for a thousand alt-rockers to come. Certainly, listening to the first disc of Slanted's two-disc reissue, which reproduces the album in its entirety with bonus early material, reaffirms their slacker-king mythos. Early tracks like "Kentucky Cocktail" and "My First Mine" find the group taking baby steps toward their soon-to- be-familiar off-kilter bounce. And Slanted still sounds as good as you remember: With Spiral Stairs and Stephen Malkmus plying shards of guitar debris over the proto-drumming of Yes-fixated skinman Gary Young, the group is surprisingly confident, able to move coherently from the elegiac propulsion of "Summer Babe" to the hushed poignancy of "Here."

But memories are linear, and the truth is rather more prismatic: The second disc points out that Pavement were always a weirder beast than the indie bands (Sebadoh, the Grifters) with whom they were lumped in order to help define a genre. Part two kicks off with what could be Pavement's finest moment, the four-track Watery, Domestic EP--a brief, exhilarating tape-collage surf through the stoner zeitgeist. "Frontwards" in particular finds Malkmus in fine, swaggering form, charmingly weary and self-aggrandizing: "I've got style, miles and miles, so much style that it's wasting." The subsequent B-sides and Peel sessions show the group moving further from their prototype sound, flitting with equal grace from the glassy-eyed swing of "So Stark (You're a Skyscraper)" to the shrill squall of "Sue Me Jack." And during the live cuts that close this reissue, Pavement drop the "indie" and just rock through thrillingly loud renditions of classics like "Angel Carver Blues" and "Home." Expanded and even more enchanting--what a pleasant surprise.

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