By 1997, both myself and the members of Pavement were just about over the “hype.” Well maybe myself more than they, after seeing the band’s brief and bizarre appearances on stadium JumboTrons and Music Televisions disappear as quickly as they came. In the few short years beforehand, their discography saw a transition from the critically acclaimed rock savior Crooked Rain to the confusing genre-bending epic Wowee Zowee. I’m not sure anyone quite knew what to expect from Pavement’s 4th full length LP, Brighten the Corners.
When I first awkwardly met Steve Malkmus in 1995, his freshly mud-pelted Free Kitten t-shirt was still drying from a nightmarish Pavement set at Lollapalooza West Virginia; it was apparent then that they weren’t ever going to fit in with the Cypress Hill crowd. No matter, as I was ready to tread along with wherever the band was going, as dirty as it might get, and Brighten the Corners was a pretty shiny path to follow.
The gems on the Brighten LP are obvious: the wacky word play of “Stereo” and the sweet croon of “Shady Lane” are its strong points. The rest of the record took me some getting used to, and involved sticking around the mellow openings in order to hit the rock swells inside “Embassy Row” and “Old To Begin.” Songs didn’t hit you as hard or as quick as anything Wowee Zowee, and it wasn’t to be like any other Pavement LP from before.
The brand new Nicene Creedence extended package is continuous bliss for hardcore fans and gives us some of the best Pavement tunes ever, which ended up all being more quick-take B-Sides: “Harness Your Hopes” could have been a big hit if fully realized, “Slowly Typed” was a jangle rock version almost superior to the LPs “Type Slowly,” and knockoffs like “No Tan Lines” and “Cherry Area” were catchy and brilliant in their slacker swagger. Pavement’s cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” has been a long time favorite of mine and is essential. I collected all these songs at the time through whatever Japanese Import single I could get my hands on; a lot of us hardcore fans realized that some of the best tunes were now found this way.
Although probably not my favorite Pavement LP altogether, I had a very personal experience with the band around the Brighten time: I designed a tour poster from a contest I entered in a local indie rock rag that band members themselves seemed to like enough to scribble their autographs on (see above right), and caught the band numerous times over the course of the tour. I felt that the mellow attitude portrayed on Brighten wouldn’t necessarily stick around; once Terror Twilight surfaced it became more and more a full-on Malkmus project than a collaboration and Brighten served as a pre-cursor into descent.
I, like so many others, devoted most of my musical twenties following the trail blazed by Malkmus and company, and didn’t quite make it to any sort of Brighten phase. (Click here to watch me and some of my best pals do our best impression!) If modern indie rock bands had even a fifth of the songwriting prowess displayed on the later Pavement LPs, we wouldn’t now be experiencing so many sophomore and junior slumps — but I guess they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.