By: Eric Greenwood
For some ridiculous reason someone associated the term ‘slacker’ with lo-fi music, specifically of the indie rock nature, but there has never been anything slack about Pavement’s music- not even when it was clouded with blistering shards of noise about eight years ago. Pavement is too smart to be slack. Always has been. Its music has evolved through its influences from naive mimicking to challenging, uncharted waters. The thing is is that Pavement has always been a jam rock band. Whenever someone mentions the word ‘jam’ near the word ‘rock’ my skin usually crawls and my face contorts, but come on, some bands have done it well. Just because Phish, Blues Traveler, and The Grateful Dead gave the term a bad name shouldn’t outweigh the fact that some bands actually jammed and rocked: The Doors, The Who, even Led Zeppelin.
Ahh, you say, but those are ‘classic rock’ bands. Yes, but so is Pavement now- maybe not in the same league as those bands yet but classic rock nonetheless. The band is done making its mark with the cutting edge crowd. Its been poised for bigger and better things for a few years now, and the music is up to the task, though the audiences might not be. Pavement has the unfortunate stigma of coming from the school of noise. I read a recent review of the band’s opening night in Chicago for the current tour, and it was full of fan complaints that the band was too mellow and didn’t play enough oldies. Typical. Pavement’s new album, Terror Twilight, is by far the best thing the band has ever recorded, but it doesn’t have a trendy or shocking sound. It’s just clever, melodic, timeless rock ‘n roll.
Nigel Godrich- the man behind the recording of Radiohead’s Ok Computer produced this new Pavement record, and it shows. The band has never sounded so grounded or polished. This will draw grimaces from Chicago noise freaks, I’m sure, but a good tune is a good tune, and Terror Twilight is full of them. Granted, if you played this record next to the compilation of early Pavement recordings, Westing By Musket And Sextant, there is no way you could tell it’s the same band, but so what? Terror Twilight is a brilliant record. First listens are always deceiving. We are so programmed to expect things to jump out at us. Terror Twilight doesn’t jump out at you at all. It takes time. It’s not a difficult listen- just a careful one.
“Spit On A Stranger” is pure melodic pop with Steven Malkmus’ slightly whiny yet endearing voice sounding earnest in spite of himself. The guitars are jangly and breezy. Malkmus’ lyrics aren’t as scathing as usual, but his sense of humor is ever-present “Irish folk tales scare the shit out of me.” His vocals are in top form too. “You Are The Light” is one of the most dynamic songs Pavement has ever recorded. Godrich has opened the band up to multi-dimensional soundscapes, and it works. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead lays down a blistering harmonica line on the rocking “Platform Blues”- one of the few tracks that actually sees the band letting loose. Rumor has it that this will be Pavement’s last record, which is a shame if it’s true because the band is on a roll.