Feb 23 2022

Album Review: Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted (#MWE)

“Summer Babe (Winter Version)”, the first song on Slanted & Enchanted, the debut album from Pavement, is a perfect introduction to the slacker rock of the band, initially a three-piece that belted out a catchy concoction of nonchalant noise. At first, the distorted guitar and drum mix is reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins, a similarity that is humorous in retrospect, given Pavement’s mini-feud that would ensue with the Pumpkins later in the decade. Once Stephen Malkmus’ shrugging, Lou Reed-like vocals come in, it’s clear, however, this is not a Billy Corgan creation.

However lethargic Malkmus sounds, his voice leads the way throughout Slanted & Enchanted, stopping his carefree drawl occasionally to deliver a half-hearted “lalala” as on “Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17” or a brief howl, as on the refrain of “No Life Signed Her.” The lyrics are just as noncommittal, a half-winking, half-genuine abstract mess delivered sardonically, consistently.

It’s important, however, not to focus on the presentation too much, because it is all extremely beguiling. Pavement, over the course of the 90s, earned a reputation for making incredibly good music sound like easy work. But anyone listening will recognize the monster hooks hidden beneath low grade production and apathetic posturing. One clear example early on in the album’s runtime is the undeniable melodic hook on “In the Mouth a Desert.” “Zurick Is Stained,” later on, trades in the fuzz for twang and lackadaisical strumming; the sturdy song craft remains, however. Pavement even try their hand at a shout-along stomper via “Two States” before returning to the California indie haze in “Perfume-V.”

Even if the disorganized guitar riffs, haphazard drumming, or Malkmus’ vocals grate at the listener initially, underneath there is structure and warmth to be discovered, which gives the album a repeat-worthy, ageless glow. It has allowed Slanted & Enchanted to stand the test of time; it sounds remarkably modern, even thirty years later.

Score: 9/10