Friday, 18 September 2009



Released in February 1994 the second Pavement studio album is so good they named it twice.  With Gary Young now out and Steve West in the band took an organic change of direction away from the abrasive and more towards classic rock.

Even if things were now more polished on a surface level the band retained the loose sense of adventure that set them apart; keeping them sloppy and effortlessly cool in an era when such expression was key.

It opens in appropriately ramshackle fashion.  Even the song name is ramshackle being “Silence Kid” but due to the messiness of the artwork it has come to be known as “Silence Kit”.  In execution is contains seemingly the sound of switching things on, of tuning up and get in the position/mindset to rock.  It’s a beginning on many levels.  Then like a jumbo jet it soars over proceedings.  From the off Steve Malkmus is soaring in solid fashion ahead of pulling/bringing it all back before the end so as not to allow the listener too much comfort.  It is the sound of being submerged.

“I wouldn’t want to shake their hands”.

Motion maintains as the drive of “Elevate Me Later” lifts proceedings in laid fashion as the fizzy distorted gestures raise the roof with the revelation that “there’s forty different shades of black”.

This is quite melancholic and dark album at times.  The song “Newark Wilder” has often supplied me with morose lines during failed moments.  The lines “it’s a brand new era and it feels great, it’s a brand new era but it came too late” remind heavily of “Here” from Slanted And Enchanted and the aftermath remorse attached to defeat and frustration.  As the words pile up and riddle in tongue as sense of whimsy grips proceedings in an almost theatrical formation.

In the past Malkmus has been quoted as saying with Crooked Rain Crooked Rain he said they thought they were going to make an indie Eagles record.  In a way the intention was a west coast response to the noise rock from the east dominating the genre.  From one perspective it was taking back riffs.

“Songs mean a lot when songs are bought, and so are you”.

Cut Your Hair” is in many ways the band’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  Its their rocker and most recognised track.  It has an amazing video which seems to encapsulate everything they are about right down to Malkmus seeing himself as king and shedding a tear in the process.  The song is actually about being in a band from the beginning to the end, through the good times and the bad.  By the end the song is exploding into the kind of dense wall of white noise you wanted every Sonic Youth song to be.

Coupled with this is “Range Life” the other single from the album expressing more bemusement at the reality of being in a band.  With a Mamas And Papas piano line and a Neil Young drive this is the sound of feeling like an outsider at Lollapalooza.  After years of trying to reach your people they arrived only to discover these people were shit too.  Perhaps this was another symptom of arriving late but really what did Pavement have in common with the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots?  Everything if you listened to MTV and all the other stuffy media outlets cashing in on the moment.  This was their way of taking the bull by the horns and walking away.

The other big song is “Gold Soundz” which stars them almost sounding optimistic.  There is message in this movement, explicit in letting off the listener in lowering their expectations and standards.  This is a track that is fucking loved.  And I don’t understand that.

Elsewhere there is a more genuine jubilation in “Unfair”.  With his words Malkmus is relentless with a fully formed flow that could almost pass as hip-hop.  And the band follows in kind as a kind of rollercoaster ride creeps to the peak eventually letting go as all hell lets loose.  It’s a triumph.

“There’s no survivors”

As with Slanted And Enchanted things begin to wind down towards the end.  The chilled declaration of “Heaven Is A Truck” continues to suggest their minds be elsewhere as one final prod of play arrives in the bouncy whirling outro of “Hit The Plane Down”.  With that “Fillmore Jive” closes with another declaration and gesture towards sleep.  There is definitely a running theme in the grand mind of a slacker.

This is a summer record through and through.

Thesaurus moment: anfractuous.

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