November 24, 2008

Review: Pavement | Brighten The Corners [Reissue]

We are crestfallen to find that one of our strongest memories of a grey April day in Budapest, 1997, goes un-documented in a journal we maintained during three months spent loitering in Western and Central Europe. Not long after arriving in that great city we fell in with a scruffy bunch and spent several immensely fun and endless night-days in dark bunker-esque basement bars, mirrored, baroque coffee shops and monolithic, Soviet-styled opera houses. That there is a hole in our written account is somewhat understandable, as the entries for those days offer a litany of consumption: giant $.16 beers, cheap smokes, and eating and sleeping very little. We had made the hard decision before leaving on the trip not to take any music, as we didn't want a set of headphones to get between us and the experience. One of our favorite fellow travelers in Budapest was named James, and he bestowed an incredible, Natalie Portman-esque moment upon us when he reported that not only did he have a Discman with him, but he also had the new Pavement record, Brighten The Corners, which we did not even know had come out. We sat on a top bunk in our dank grey-green dorm room and listened to the album end-to-end, and it blew our mind as perhaps no record had done since leaving university the prior May.

From the ping-ponging opening of "Stereo" through the icy dread of the final moments of the funereal "Fin," we were transported. Some context is important here: our initial assessment of Pavement's prior set Wowee Zowee was not entirely favorable, as at the time -- a time largely spent worshipping Seam, Superchunk and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain -- we found Pavement's third full-length to be (we'll borrow a comment from a professor's assessment of a contemporanous paper authored by a former housemate here) "willfully obfuscating." Which is to say we found it to be self-consciously jammy and difficult just for difficulty's sake. We've since come to grips with the genius of Wowee Zowee. But the embrace of the relatively straight-forward Brighten The Corners was immediate and welcoming. We we're instantly blown away by "Stereo" and "Shady Lane," and both tracks remain a favorite in the Clicky Clicky household. But most of all we recall sitting on that bunk and listening to "Fin" wash over us with wave after wave, guitar solo after guitar solo, those haunted backing vocals riding low in the mix, and everything receding into that long, inevitable march to the fadeout. It sounded like the end of everything. In a very good way.

Matador Records reissues Brighten The Corners in an expanded, remastered, double-disc edition Dec. 9. The second disc may be our favorite of all the second discs of the Matador Pavement reissues. Miraculously, the label is running a promotion right now whereby you can purchase all four expanded Pavement reissues for $50. This is an absurdly good deal. Here is the link. If, like us, you already had the previous reissues, you can purchase just the Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition from Matador right here. Earlier this fall Matador made available its Intended Play Fall 2008 sampler of free MP3s, which included the very fun Brighten The Corners outtake "Cataracts," which we're posting below.

Pavement -- "Cataracts (Unreleased Outtake)" -- Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition
[right click and save as]
[buy the reissue from Matador right here]

1 comment:

Nick Balkin said...

This is the first Pavement album I owned - and they'd later become my favorite band.

"You've been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life" - one of the best lines in any song ever.

Looking forward to hearing "Cataracts."