Slow Century (DVD)

Pavement's debut album Slanted And Enchanted was an underground sensation even before its 1992 release: Much like Nirvana's Nevermind, which preceded it by just a few months, the album was copied, traded, and spoken of in hushed tones. It famously got a full-page rave in Spin before the then-fledgling Matador Records had even sent out promotional copies. And, like Nevermind on a more intimate scale, Slanted would prove to be a watershed record with a lasting impact. The three guys who made it—credited on the album as S.M., Stairs, and Young—almost certainly didn't foresee its splash. Recorded over Christmas in the slipshod California home studio of drummer/engineer Gary Young, Slanted captures the standoffish intensity of stunning songs written and played by people who weren't quite sure how. That passionately amateur feel, of course, is what makes it work. Pavement became an accomplished band that made great records after Slanted, but while those can be easily grouped together, this one stands alone as droll lightning in a bottle. Much of the credit goes to Stephen "S.M." Malkmus' songs, largely written away from guitarist and sometime songwriter Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg: Their pre-Slanted output had no steady footing, but Malkmus eventually found a balance between his dry weirdness ("Here," "Zurich Is Stained") and his spastic weirdness ("Fame Throwa," "Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era"). The combination would inspire a hundred "slacker" bands, essentially launching '90s indie-rock, but few would come close to matching its effortless wonder. For the 10th-anniversary reissue of its golden egg, Matador has been reverent and generous: Slanted And Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe isn't just a slapdash remaster with some B-sides included. Instead, it expands the original album's 14 tracks to a pleasantly overwhelming 48, including outtakes, flip sides, two complete John Peel Sessions full of unreleased songs, a live concert from 1992, and a thick booklet with insightful commentary from those involved. Also present in its entirety is the amazing four-song EP Watery, Domestic, which not only marked the end of Pavement's first lineup, but also contains perhaps the finest vocal pause in indie-rock history, between the phrases "someone took..." and "in these pants." If that isn't enough, there's the simultaneous release of the forever-in-the-works double DVD Slow Century, a set as comprehensive as the Slanted reissue, though less essential for the casual fan. A lengthy documentary by Lance Bangs reveals little about the famously aloof Malkmus (other than that he's famously aloof), but the DVD also collects more than a dozen Pavement videos, many of which revel in the band's goofy side. The members of Pavement even provide honest and funny commentary on the clips, more than once revealing things like "I've never seen this one before." Slackers to the end, apparently.

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