Wednesday, February 12, 2014

20 Years Old: Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

I recently read an amazing Oral History of Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain at Stereogum in celebration of the album's 20-year anniversary.

Unless you're a fan of that band and specifically that record, you probably won't find it as compelling as I did. But for me, that was a benchmark album. Perhaps like punk rock was for those who had their heads whipped around in the late 70's or early 80's, Crooked Rain opened my eyes and ears to new possibilities. Song structures didn't need to have the same regular verses, choruses or bridges in prescribed places. Production did not have to aim to be pristine, and mixing could emphasize ambience, melody, shambolic splendour. Your album cover could be a baffling piece of art revelling in a glorious mess that rejects slick.

Of course, R.E.M. had already started me down that path with Murmur, an album to which you could also ascribe all of what you just read. But where Stipe mumbled or sang sweetly, Malkmus doesn't really do either; he somehow managed to fall into that Tom Verlaine magical vocal trick of straddling tuneful and yelp, shrieking and melody, an aged sing-speak and child-like self-crooning. In fact, the whole band seemed to revel in its abandon, if I can steal from Tom Petty. Putting a country-ish ditty like Range Life on your major label-distributed debut was not on with the cool kids in 1994, alt-country was not recognized by most (although R.E.M. did it with (Don't Go Back To) Rockville on Reckoning...hmmm, maybe these guys owe R.E.M more than I have realized). The endearing (to me) "Oooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-oohs" in Cut Your Hair would probably piss off most people. The way sounds buzz in and out, energy ramps up or dissipates in unusual moments, everything's twisted or bent including voices - I always thought Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was the perfect title because nothing's straight here.

Cut Your Hair

Gold Soundz

Range Life

Silence Kid

Stop Breathin'

Newark Wilder



Heaven is a Truck

Fillmore Jive

Hit the Plane Down

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