Matador's biennial mission to give each Pavement album the deluxe reissue treatment continues. This year, it's Brighten The Corners, the band's fourth and most unassuming album. It isn't the stunning debut that accidentally kicked indie rock off the couch and into the spotlight. It isn't the slump-averting sophomore effort, the jammy, self-indulgent record, or the swan song. Its one gimmick is its name producer, Mitch Easter, whose stamp is decidedly transparent. The original 12 songs cover a wide swath of familiar territory—the effortless bounce of "Stereo," the wistful yearning of "Shady Lane," the prog twists of "Transport Is Arranged." The best songs surprise in some way. In "Blue Hawaiian," Stephen Malkmus actually raps, and it works. "Embassy Row" is uncharacteristically ferocious, tearing a four-minute hole in the record and filling it with a paranoiac dread that's still resonant in the post-9/11 era.
Like most modern reissues, this one contains a wealth of B-sides and curios to sift through. Some are fun, like the nasty, thrashing "Wanna Mess You Around," but some are for completists only, like two stabs at a Space Ghost theme. Covers of Echo And The Bunnymen, The Clean, and The Fall reveal the roots of indie rock, that squirrelly non-genre that Pavement will forever be tied to. This second pass at Brighten The Corners catches the band bucking and embracing that connection.