Back on the streets
As the indie stalwarts throughout the 90's, you could argue that Pavement were the US's answer to The Fall. They, along with The Flaming Lips and Beat Happening were the top of the Lo-fi tree, as the world was getting tired of the stifling sound of grunge. With this reissue of their 1995 LP we realise what we are now missing from this now defunct band. Their unique blend of sweet melodies, out of time strumming and wacky lyrics is hard to find elsewhere.
Wowee Zowee was an awkward record and not just musically, being too long for a single slab of vinyl but too short to use all four sides. The record opens with 'We Dance', which sounds like a perfect swan song for the band. Its lyrics include lines like 'check that expiration date man, it is later than you think' and 'I don't have a clue anymore', maybe the band knew they were at their peak.
The rest of the LP is punctuated by the Stones-like drawl of 'Rattled by the Rush', the humorous oddity that is 'Brinx Job', with its 'We got the money' chant and the sultry shuffle of 'Grave Architecture'. The sound of the record is more accomplished than previous albums; the guitars are more in tune and the beats less dragged. Its extremes are the trashy new-wave punk of 'Flux = rad' and the mid-west tear-jerking ballad of 'Pueblo'. They got away with such diversity due to their tongue-in-cheek attitude towards music making.
Previously of course there was Slanted and Enchanted in 1992 which was more straight ahead sounding, but still quirky and featured the provocative 'Summer Babe', the all-out thrash of 'No life singed her' plus the sadness that is 'Here*'. And let's not forget that Crooked Rain Crooked Rain from 1993 was also packed with memorable tunes. The aggressive 'Unfair' and 'Hit the plane down' and the dreamy single 'Range life' were among the best anywhere.
After Wowee Zowee, the band went on to record Brighten The Corners (1997) and Terror Twilight (1999) in a drastically different musical climate. Even though they still cut the mustard they were not quite as potent as previous albums.
Pavement had everything; a distinctive sound made by a great bunch of characters (especially the spaghetti wielding drummer and the now solo Steve Malkmus). It is a shame Blur had to be quite so influenced by Pavement, as many people credit this joyous sound to the Brit-poppers. Not that they ever got it down anywhere near as good.
© 2003 Alan Osborne