Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted (Cover Artwork)


Slanted and Enchanted (1992)


Pavement was probably the "it' band in the indie rock underground in the 1990s. Not only did they set the groundwork for that scene as well as the slacker rock / lo-fi craze, they also made some damn good songs. Their first album was Slanted and Enchanted, a record that may be, more often than not, indie rock, but has a dazzling energy to it not unlike punk rock. This is especially true on the song "Two States," in which they sound like the mighty post-punkers the Fall, complete with a truly good vocal impression of Mark E. Smith.

The album's pinnacle comes at songs four and five with "In the Mouth a Desert" and "Conduit for Sale!". The former is a catchy rocker with singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus vocally smug (in the good way), augmented by bursts of feedback. "Conduit" is the opposite, and is a stellar example of Pavement at both their most experimental and hardest. The track features whirling guitars and Malkmus screaming the chorus, "I'm trying!" over and over, with ranty spoken word breaking up the swirl of infused instruments whipping around each other, like two goldfish in love swimming fish eyes and fish eyes locked onto one another while swimming around the outer rime of the fishbowl.

"Summer Babe (Winter Version)" and "Loretta's Scars" are stellar examples of the band in a poppy mode. However, it's not generic pop; rather, the songs have a genuine sense of melody that it earns, unlike many mainstream acts that just seem to force the hooks onto the listener with their ritzy production. "Perfume-V" is another rocker that sounds like a combination of both of these noisy and poppy types of Pavement molds.

The rest of the songs may not be as good, but whether it be the rising-to-stop-to-rise-again "Fame Throwa" and "No Life Singed Her," to the blazing "Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era," and quieter songs like "Zurich Is Stained," Slanted and Enchanted barely stumbles.

However, on the track "Here," despite having Malkmus' crisp vocal work, the listener will want the hooks to emerge more pronounced, and the same can be said about the closing track, "Our Singer." Despite the good singing, the subtlety on this last track is too obvious, as it has never been unusual for bands to put a soft song last and this song in particular really doesn't add much to Slanted and Enchanted; it defines it in the way that this record will often leave you mystified when it's about side-stepping the clichés with its fun attitude. When it doesn't, it may still be slanted away from being even average, but you will still want that ingenuity to shine through.