By – Kristi Houk
In which I revisit Pavement’s debut album, Slanted and Enchanted, originally released in April, 1992.
I’ve dismissed Pavement since I first heard them in the early 90’s. Not without trying, mind you. I bought Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain when it came out in 1994 solely for the track, “Range Life.” I listened to the record—mainly that one track if I’m being honest—a handful of times and then tossed it aside to collect dust in the back seat of my Mazda 323 hatchback. I even went as far as to see the band live at Lollapalooza that same summer.
I just never got them.
My biggest issues (excuses) with the band’s music as lame as it sounds are 1.) Stephen Malkmus, primary songwriter, lead singer and guitarist seemed bored out of his mind—and as a friend put it recently, “if he doesn’t care, why should I?” and 2.) The music was meant for dudes and stoners, both of which I was not. Granted, at that time in my musical journey, I was looking for earnestness, heart on one’s sleeve. Pavement? that ain’t them.
Fast forward to Winter 2023. 29 years since Slanted and Enchanted was released that fateful spring. After re-listening to the album every day for a week—I’ve learned some key stuff about the band, and mainly myself, what I can now relate to that I couldn’t at the time. For one, it CANNOT be understated that Malkmus is a huge Lou Reed fan. You can hear it all over Slanted. The deadpan delivery particularly on tracks like “Summer Babe” with the nonchalant vibe of the lyric: My eyes stick to all the shiny robes/She wear on the protein delta strip/In an abandoned house, but I will wait there/I’ll be waitin’ forever… I am instantly reminded of Reed’s classic “Coney Island Baby.”
I have more in common with Malkmus that I thought or wanted to admit that I have. If you take away the sludgy guitars that frankly, for me, drown out the lyrics, you find an imagist poet in Malkmus. On my favorite track, “Loretta’s Scars”, Malkmus shows some vulnerability that gets lost in all that guitar noodling, “How can I? /How can I make my body shed for you? /How can I? /How can I? /How can I make my body shed around your metal scars? /Loretta’s scars, Loretta’s scars, Loretta’s scars.” Man, he’s really trying with this gal.
I appreciate being wrong about this record. Mainly in my preconceived notions of Malkmus as some bratty, trust fund kid who really couldn’t care less if anyone liked his music or not. When in reality, he was just another suburban kid letting off some steam in the most beautiful albeit noisy way.
Written by: kristi houk
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