Album Review by Mark Bayross
Pavement’s split in 1999 probably wasn’t considered by most as a calamity of earth-shattering proportions, but it did leave a fairly large cult following, largely in the US and the UK, keenly wondering what mainman Stephen Malkmus would do next. Well, here’s the answer.
Originally given the title SWEDISH REGGAE, Malkmus claimed his debut album was supposed to be a “mix of the precision of Saab, Stefan Edberg and Bergman with the laid back yet heavy beats of deepest Trench Town”. Somewhere along the line, the album seems to have lost its title, and with it, any trace of Stockholm or Kingston. I guess that was the point.
What we have here is exactly what Pavement fans will expect – twelve bittersweet lo-fi guitar tunes that will still do the business on the college circuit, and possibly see Malkmus grudgingly accept some of the limelight for himself. That’s the problem with slacker rock – it’s hard to get enthusiastic when the musicians themselves don’t seem to give a damn.
But Malkmus was always cleverer than that. There’s enough melody in fuzz-box friendly tunes like DISCRETION GROVE (the album’s first single) or the handclap-backed PHANTASIES to engage the interest. When things do get a bit kooky, like on the slightly tortuous Pixies space-rock of TROUBBBLE, it’s never long before a measured acoustic number like PINK INDIA emerges to put things back on track.
At times the alt-country stylings add a hitherto unseen dimension of exquisiteness – TROJAN CURFEW, for example, is blessed with a truly stunning slide guitar, while the closing DEADO is a work of shimmering beauty.
Malkmus’ offbeat lyrics and deadpan delivery (“I came to crave your spastic touch” – VAGUE SPACE) will undoubtedly still keep mainstream success at bay, but that should by no means prevent you from checking this out.