By: Jon DolanIf you weren’t aware that the tenth anniversary of Pavement’sidyllic indie-rock masterpiece Slanted & Enchanted isupon us, don’t worry. There was no VH1 special, no bank holiday, nolegal battle over the master tapes–just a richly appointedreissue. In a way, it’s the kind of enthused yet low-key fanfarethat this grad-school Nevermind demands: A decade later,Slanted still feels more like a shared secret than acultural revolution. Its anniversary is a mini Big Chill fora generation that never quite got theirs.
If you weren’t aware that the tenth anniversary of Pavement’s idyllic indie-rock masterpiece Slanted & Enchanted is upon us, don’t worry. There was no VH1 special, no bank holiday, no legal battle over the master tapes–just a richly appointed reissue. In a way, it’s the kind of enthused yet low-key fanfare that this grad-school Nevermind demands: A decade later, Slanted still feels more like a shared secret than a cultural revolution. Its anniversary is a mini Big Chill for a generation that never quite got theirs.
In 1991, Pavement was a trio–singer/guitarists Stephen “S.M.” Malkmus and Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg, plus hippie drummerGary Young (tapped, Malkmus says, because “he owned a studio”). They had already garnered hipster hosannas for a string of crypticallypackaged EPs. But Slanted was a brand-new bag, fleshing out the band’s early squall with miles and miles of freeway-rock beauty(“Perfume-V”), broken romance (“Zürich Is Stained”), and endless hummability (“Loretta’s Scars”). Gems like “Summer Babe” and”Trigger Cut” (with its plea for “eee-lectricity and lust”) even brought a little doe-eyed sexiness to the table. The music waslow-budget lush, like a welfare sunset; Malkmus says the band was trying to “Californize” the sound of artier antecedents like theSwell Maps and the Fall. “We were trying to live up to these things that were hip then in urban areas,” Malkmus laughs. “Nobodyliked the Fall in Stockton.”
Slanted is essential on its own, but the reissue adds a buttload of unreleased arcana. Minus a storming “Baby, Yeah,” most of thelive stuff doesn’t exactly rock like a hurricane. But two sets recorded for British DJ John Peel’s radio show mix beguiling languagegames with languid feedback jags, and the songs from 1992’s Watery, Domestic EP showcase demure guitar gush and the warmest imagery ofMalkmus’ Wallace Stevens-worthy career. Overall, it’s a package that claims Pavement for history without sacrificing the catch-as-catch-canaura that was so integral to their charm. Of Slanted‘s induction into the rock canon, Malkmus says he’s stillsurprised anybody cared in the first place. “It was exciting,” he muses, with a shrug that’s practically audible over the phone. “We thought it would be asbig as the first Dinosaur Jr. album, maybe. That was, like, our dream.”