Music Features

Pavement: Re-Grooved

Anyone with functioning eyes and eardrums should pick up The Slow Century DVD and the digitally re-mastered Slanted and Enchanted CD courtesy of legendary indie superheroes, Pavement. Call it a silence kit if you will (under forty bucks total - DVD and disc sold separately), that will quell naysayers who wrote off the left coast quintet and their college rock counterparts as just another bunch of sonic slackers representing the early 90's Daydream Nation.

The reissued Slanted and Enchanted (Matador) delivers 48 tracks, including the Watery, Domestic EP as well as the '92 Peel Sessions and the heavily bootlegged Brixton Academy show (also from '92), and of course the digitally re-mastered Pavement debut that helped solidify the 1990's lo-fi freak scene as one of the best (and misunderstood) genres of the century. Spin magazine crowned S&E as the #5 Greatest album of all time, and hearing "Loretta's Scars", "Two States" and "Conduit for Sale" a decade later demonstrates the validity of Pavement's musical styling - it still fucking rocks. But the high point arrives in hearing "Summer Babe" live, with a smug Malkmus spewing his infamous, nonsensical couplets with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

About the only thing better than hearing an infectious and pretentious jam such as "Summer Babe" is the opportunity to witness it in the live setting. The Slow Century DVD delivers the visual a few times, including an unforgettable performance of the track in 1991 during the in-depth documentary. Seeing a teeth-clenched Malkmus howling "I got a lot of things I want to sell but, not here babe - you took it all" transforms the song into a jaw-dropping montage of winding guitars and exploding percussion. The band feed off the commandeering presence of a seething Malkmus on this one, evoking thoughts of live, Bends-era Radiohead at their finest. The DVD also includes two uncut concerts during their final tour in 1999, one from Seattle's famed Showbox nightclub and a short but sweet set across the pond in Manchester. The Seattle show is a dizzying collection of Pavement faves, a 20-song set that opens with the slow build up of "In the Mouth a Desert" (arguably the best track from Slanted) and draws heavily from both their debut as well as Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, an album which Malkmus plaintively acknowledges on the 90-minute documentary directed by acclaimed director Lance Bangs.

"People seemed really excited about Slanted and Enchanted, but the whole time we thought 'That was nothing, wait till you hear the next one.'" Indeed, Crooked Rain remains the band's most complete work, and the undeniable hook on "Cut Your Hair" would inevitably land them a larger audience, which culminates with the Lollapalooza '95 fiasco, which provides for some difficult viewing throughout the 90-minute documentary. Witnessing Steven Malkmus being bombarded by mud and rocks because their set was interfering with the throngs of Sinead O'Connor (!) fans spilling over from the main stage is appalling. And watching a bandwagon crowd full of chubby frat guys attempting to sing along to "Cut Your Hair" is too ironic for words. But the band doesn't want your sympathy.

The early footage of the band's infinitely stewed original drummer makes for some sad but hilarious black comedy, but the band clearly show their loyalty and let him stick around way too long and suffer through far too many horrendous live sets. Other rare and entertaining moments include early shots of the band moshing in a bedroom while rocking the air guitar to Dinosaur Jr.'s "Sludgefeast" and tons of interviews from friends and associates throughout, including plenty of narrative from alt.rock superhero Thurston Moore. Every Pavement video ever made and never seen is also included, 13 pre-MTV2 videos that rarely even got a shot on Matt Pinfield's 120 Minutes back in the day.

The five members of Pavement succeed in being a direct reflection on their amazing music - sometimes silly, smug and pretentious but ultimately endearing. Any music fan uninterested in the next Linkin Park of the moment needs to pick up The Slow Century DVD and the new and improved Slanted and Enchanted right now.