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Pavement - Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed.

Released on Matador/Domino, 12/9/08

If I were to make a mix tape of my high school years, not only would I need to buy a tape deck and some cassettes but I would also need to dig out my old tape box. And if I felt willing and emotionally stable enough to take a little trip back to 1992 and create a soundtrack to my awkward coming of age and self-conscious adolescent angst, Pavement would be a featured artist.

Slanted and Enchanted, the band's first studio album, blew my ninth grade mind. We would blast it in my friend’s driveway and dance around until her dad yelled at us. I was immediately struck by the raging clang of guitars and unfettered vocals. Theirs was a style heavily borrowed upon by most, if not all, indie rock bands from the nineties. With tongue-in-cheek, off-key lyrical banter, softly squealing guitars on top of dissonant, seemingly one-take solos, and a thanks-be-to-god solid-as-a-rock rhythm section, these fellas from Stockton pioneered a sound, style, and attitude that has yet to be buried by imitation and influx.

Rumor has it frontman Stephen Malkmus is not the easiest person to be in a band with, but show me a frontman who is and I will eat my tapes. It is a wonder the band lasted for as long as it did, their career spanning ten years and five studio albums from 1989-1999, considering the internal strife and rotating cast of characters. But it is no wonder Pavement has made such a mighty impact and so greatly influenced many of the bands creating music currently.

They took lo-fi sessions and made them info magical realms of sound and emotion, unbridled, raw and unlike anything created by bands before or after. It is as if their statements translate directly into aural energy. To help dampen the blow of their break-up, Matador has been steadily releasing reissues of each Pavement album every two years since 2000 in chronological order complete with remastered versions of the original album, B-sides, live versions, and enough previously unreleased tracks to quell even the heartiest of lo-fi indie noise pop-loving appetites.

I was slightly daunted when I took a look at the latest reissue Pavement release, Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed. The double disc features forty-four tracks, most of them B-sides and unreleased live tracks from radio sessions and concerts. Smooth and produced they are not, but edgy, quirky and downright Pavement-y they are. The remastered original album sounds like most remastered albums, the same, maybe a little louder and brighter, but mostly serving as a reminder in the style of a musical appetizer to prepare you for the main course of rarities and finds.

“Stereo” and “Shady Lane” still float by as easy and palatable radio hits, leading to the meatier “Transport is Arranged” and the plodding, raw sing-along classic “We Are Underused”. Yes, all is wonderful and familiar in Pavementland. Now, on to the rarities. At first I was stoked to hear all the B-sides from the album recording sessions, the songs that didn’t make the cut, the fight-starters and band-breakers. But almost two hours into my solo listening party I began to tire, to wonder when this train was going to slow it on down. I got a nasty dose of Pavementitus. Symptoms included dizziness, numbness, and general feelings of malaise, depression, yearning… the desire for a cold, quiet beer.

While I did enjoy their cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” and the previously unreleased and hilariously titled “Neil Hagerty Meets Jon Spencer in a Non-Alcoholic Bar”, and while I do consider myself to be a fan of the recorded works of Pavement, this reissue proved to be a little much for me to take. For the diehards out there, you will not be let down by this colossal and vast chronicle of Pavement from that era, for the more casual fans, stick to the original recordings, your tapes in the basement perhaps.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars