Slanted and Enchanted

Can you believe we’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of Pavement’s LP debut success, Slanted and Enchanted? Well, seems like not until 2022 but we’re close enough, and I don’t want to wait that long! My CD has a release date of 1991 by Matador anyway. Whatever year it was, did you know that this lo-fi shimmering masterpiece is considered one of the most influential indie rock records of the 90s? I believe it and will hoist up a banner to this, because it cuts me so deep. It joins the mighty ranks of other albums in my life that sit on a shelf way above the rest. I’ll play S&E when I just want good feels to caress and wrap me whole. Out of all Pavement’s albums this is the one that I turn to over and over again for pure enjoyment and times of cathartic need. Singer and guitarist Stephen Malkmus’ lyrics are mostly really out there, cryptic, epic, imaginative and playful, and have inspired me to write poetry or potential song lyrics of my own. His voice and way of singing also just has this laid back self-assured attractive quality.  I saw Pavement live only once long ago in Montreal in a magical haze of stardust.

Pavement’s sound in the early days has been compared to British post punk outfits The Fall and Swell Maps. These are great bands to compare them to but I don’t always want to or like to compare bands to other bands. I’ll say this: Pavement sounds like Pavement and I think Slanted and Enchanted is incredible and the songs on it need no comparison.

I didn’t know this but recently learned that S&E was recorded in drummer Gary Young’s home studio, and that it was the most spontaneous of their albums which really lends to its greatness.

‘Summer Babe (Winter Version)’ starts this gem off exploding into crispy and cool notes, its languid easy and relaxed feels, lo-fi shimmers, distortioned guitar going about a lazy journey in sun ripe pastures, pitter patter light drumming, yearnful hopeful lyrics, and a beautiful soloing-off guitar melody carrying most of the tune, and Malkmus’s long trailing wail invites you back into the chorus, singing “You’re my Summer Babe…”So many sweet parts ooze splendidly. According to the liner notes of the 20th anniversary special reissue this song almost didn’t make it on the record. Malkmus suggested cutting it but guitarist Scott ‘Spiral Stairs’ Kannberg insisted it was a good song.

Ice baby

I see your girlfriend and she’s eating her fingers
Like they’re just another meal
But she waits there in the levee wash
Mixing cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar

My eyes stick to all those shiny robes
You wear on the protein delta strip
In an abandoned houseboat
I will wait there, I’ll be waiting forever
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting

‘Trigger Cut’ has this anticipatory suspenseful intro with a groove, layers and layers of trickles and shades of light droning, casual riffing like flinging your long hair back on a breezy day, the right kind of 2nd song. It’s a little more chaotic sounding, with a bit of attitude on the backup vocals. The bridge part introduces a lovely “Sha-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh” culminating into the heaviest part of the song, then back to the earnest feeling and lots of stuff happening in the background with a little weird outro interlude called ‘Wounded kite at :17.’

‘No Life Singed Her’ starts off with Malkmus’ screeching vocals peeling out a wail of emotion and frustration and abrasive playing like totally unexpected and in your face, but then sets off on this heavy traveling ditty with more explosive screech yelling in between verses – then a totally rambling fast outro  of fire-y guitars and expert drumming leads the song out to end. It’s weirdly heavy, and urgent, sort of an assault of angry energy.

Take me down from the ridge where
The summer ends, we’ll watch the city
Spread out just like a jet’s flame.
I’ve got a secret for you, I cut your

Angel in two, I left her bleeding
And soaked it with a dry sponge
No life has singed her now
(I can see it fade)

‘In the Mouth a Desert’ – I just sigh with forlornness at the start of this beautifully poetic song. I have to pause and make sure all my senses are all in sync and tuned in, I don’t want to miss a step, a beat a moment, I want to absorb it whole, every note. As you can guess this is my unsurpassed favourite Pavement song, so rife of splendid wonderful sounds, a godlike melody of unearthly proportions, that just gets in your soul. It starts off with a little light guitar picking melodic intro and second bar in you hear this delightful celestial bell sound like shimmering silver, the guitar continues builds a little slowly and then another guitar comes in sneaky and teasing like little curly cues, with the first carrying a steady more serious strumming then it’s building and building and then the little drum roll sets it all off, and the cymbals crash loud, just SMASH and BOOM! Pure bliss. I wish I understood more about guitar and effects but the sound here is like a liquid glittering shimmering pool of stars with shiny blinding purity, which is accentuated by Mark Ibold’s rumbling low bass, easy steady pace, cymbals crashing accents with perfection, Malkmus’s vocals are earnest and soulful, so deep and emotional, and the ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh  in-between – just amazing. Gary Young’s drumming pounding is superb and magical and Spiral’s and Malkmus’s piercing guitars are sensually lyrical. I am magically transported to a fairy tale land.

Can you treat it like an oil well
When it’s underground, out of sight?
And if the sight is just a whore sign
Can it make enough sense to me?

Pretend the table is a trust knot,
We’ll put our labels down, faith is down
I’ll watch the yarn of twine unravel
And you’ll never get it back

It’s what I want (it’s what I want)
It’s what I want (twine comes down)
It’s what I want, it’s what I want
Don’t you know, I could make you try
Make you try, make you try, make you try

I’ve been crowned the King of it
And it is all we have, so wait
To hear my words and they’re diamond-sharp
I could open it up
And it’s up and down

Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh 

‘Conduit for Sale!’ is an exercise between experimental and literary. A stream of consciousness like tale about some guy named Herr Barockter. Who is this guy? It’s an interesting and intense story, lengthy and creative and rambling. The music is bold enough, brash enough and carries well with the contrast between the simple “I’m tryin” parts to the quickly read mouthful story about Herr. Quite genius, no?

I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’.
I’m tryin’ and I’ll try.
I’m tryin’ and I’ll try.

Unable to bear the scandal, Ray, philanthropist,
Rents low-down scab house in conduit.
Herr Barockter offers said land for a song,
But no one wants to sing.
In an attempt to retain social privileges,
Yet mask it as goodwill,
He says to the conduit members:
“Take this rotten old tree and make it bear fruit.”
Cheers erupted throughout the thin settlement;
An Italian male was heard to say:
“Between here and there
Is better than either here or there!”

‘Zurich is Stained’ is gently and swaying rhythm with countrified guitar sounds twanging amid strumming about a mid-tempo beat. It such a feel-good song!

I can’t sing it strong enough
That kind of strength I just don’t have.
If you watch the lights change
Don’t hold them hanging.

You think it’s easy but you’re wrong
I am not one half of the problem
Zurich is stained and it’s not my fault
Just hold me back or let me run.

Sha la la la

‘Chesley’s Little Wrists’ is a weird and crazy jumble mess of an experimental and mostly instrumental song, twirling and and kerfuffling about, backwards sounding and ultimately disturbing.

‘Loretta’s Scars’ blends in with its upbeat yet slow feeling lament meandering with a bittersweet happy sad tone, a extremely melodically crazy flowy guitar, droning bass and jangly twangly groove, kind of ear shattering layers, lyrical and poetic.

How can I make my body shed for you?
How can I make my body shed
Around your metal scars
Loretta’s scars
From now on I can see the slums
Makes me anxious, makes me run

‘Here’ is another favorite of mine, the slowest song on the album, its simple languid tempo hitting that sweet spot, so poignant and heartfelt with some hard driving straightforward lyrics to start. With a wide range of S.M.’s singing, and musically just building and building. Just listen to this song and tell me you’re not instantly in love with it.

I was dressed for success

But success it never comes
And I’m the only one who laughs
At your jokes when they are so bad

And your jokes are always bad
But they’re not as bad as this.

Come join us in a prayer
We’ll be waiting, waiting where

Everything’s ending here.

‘Two States’ is a hep little ditty, written by bandmember Spiral Stairs, swayin’ and rockin’, with a hyped beat, and a sickly singed guitar, and rumple-dumple drums, really poignant guitar sounds and a chorus that is so infectious, “40 million daggers!”

‘Perfum-V’ is an intricate, space-y song, with a squeaky screechy guitar to start this song off, then sweeps into a weird off-key tone feeling mysterious and anxious with longing or uncertainty, but the lyrics sung in a fun playful way suggest real dark happenings.

Fun for an hour when the hr’s gone
Can one trick nights feed 40 days?
In my bed at the break of dawn she
Shivered like a vein slashed bright and new

She’s got the radio active, and it makes
me feel ok (I don’t feel ok)

Grip- force the vials, and strip the locks, and smash
The set and slash the beds, and when it

Looks like a wife’s ex-plot, we’ll cover
All the rugs with cheap perfume

Like a docent’s lisp
Like a damsel’s spit

Like a dry gin’s twist (of lime)
Like a poor droll sir
Like a poke’s dull spurs
Like a pastor’s flock (no church)

‘Fame Throwa’ is a strange tapestry of guitar sounds richly layered and patterned driving us deeper into forgotten trails. It sounds like an experimental 80s soundscape with real alienish sounds for some kind of art psychological thriller or bizarre horror film. It gets heavier and Gary’s batteria is impressive, rippling and pounding.

Some more of this heavy and weirdly lonely trippy extraterrestrial experimental kind of sound in ‘Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era’ that’s actually subtly upbeat and meanders quaintly while also repeated over and over are the words I’ve got one holy life to live, I’ve got one holy life to giveand a quiet rock out drum interlude to finish.

‘Our Singer’ is the last song and what a last song it is! Is this my favourite? I seem to have so many on here. It’s simplicity, it’s hope and renewal, it’s power to the power of something super powerful, it’s deep and dark and cavernous, it’s complete and whole and all one and nothingness, and that continuous unrelenting drum beat and snappy dancing and crashing cymbal and the heavy guitar chime blast ringing over and over.

I’ve been waitin’
Sun comes up
The skies won’t sink my soul

I’ve dreamt of this
But is never comes
But it never comes
The risin’

The natures dry
I’ve been dreamin’
Traced out but dreamin’

The sun comes up
The blisters burn my soul
I’m dreamin’
Of something now

Of something now
Of the risin’
The natures dry
And all the groovey ones