Album Review: Pavement – Brighten The Corners [Re-issue]

Try saying ‘pavement’. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And therein, according to founding members Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg in an interview this writer read many years ago, is the reasoning behind the name choice of the cult 90s indie rock band. A good a reason as any, I suppose, and yes, unfathomable as it may seem in a musical climate saturated by jingly jangly bands, they had indie rock back in the 90s. And it managed to do well enough for itself without the shameless branding ‘indie rock’ sees these days.

Often likened to The Fall, Mark E Smith of said band would, over the years, claim Pavement were a ‘rip off’ without ‘an original idea in their heads’. However, the band’s jerky guitars, inspired lyrics and idle vocals stood out enough to gain the attentions of aging hippy Gary Young, who provided drums for the founding pair and was quoted as saying that ‘This Malkmus idiot is a complete song-writing genius.’ And clearly Matador Records are of a similar opinion in that they’ve reissued this, Pavement’s 1997 Brighten The Corners, the band’s fourth album, as part of their plan to reissue a Pavement record every two years.

‘The Nicene Creedence Edition’ is a two disc goldmine of vintage Pavement in their heyday. Rough around the edges and simultaneously The Wannadies, Ash and Nirvana, their music is what the original bashed up Cons and tight jeans drift was made for. ‘Stereo’, arguably one of Pavement’s most definitive tracks, kicks off the proceedings with its groovy (yes, groovy) bass lines, off-kilter guitar and honest vocals. ‘Shady Lane’ follows, to the same recipe. Track after track, in fact, jump out of the speakers following this firmly established protocol, and yet – and this is what sets Pavement apart from other ‘indie rock’ – despite identical procedure, each track is something new and refreshing. A rarity indeed, these days, and one which may, fingers crossed, spawn a reunion tour in 2009.

Reckon yourself an indie rock fan? Wrap your ears around this and then we’ll see. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.


Words: Rachel England