Harness Your Hopes: Pavement "Brighten The Corners" Nicene Creedence Edition

Author: John


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.


  1. baconfat

    over time, it has occurred to me that “fin” (aka “infinite spark”) is my favorite tune on this record – it’s so stately and elegiac. i also saw them a bunch in 1997 – 3 times in nyc in february (including the crazy appearance on hbo’s reverb), once in san francisco on an april “business trip,” twice in may (dc/b’more), and then 3 nights in a row in the fall (charlottesville, winston-salem, athens) with mogwai. that fall tour was a lot of fun – jammed out “type slowly”s and velvets covers. my buddy scott even got them to play “hit the plane down”, which was a glorious mess that sm seemed totally uninterested in contributing to. i felt that they were really gelling as a band that fall, but perhaps it was all just sm flexing. regardless, it was kind of disheartening to see how the TT shows felt so lifeless for the most part.

    i can’t wait to get my copy of the BTC reissue (hopefully today!) so i can hear the studio versions of some of the songs they played at the carrboro show in 1996 which never got released.

    • John

      “fin” is definitely excellent and probably the most perfect example of the BTC vibe … i burned out my VHS copy of the reverb shows (they need to get DVD released), i forgot that you were there dude, sweet!

      is there a definitive BTC tour show list online somewhere? i was trying to pinpoint the ones i attended, which were obviously the 930 DC shows but possibly also c-ville i think — they sort of get mixed in with the TT tour in my mind

  2. baconfat

    http://www.wonderllama.com/boots is the easiest source i found online – i know a couple of friends that have extensive tape lists but they are probably not posted anywhere and likely not much more expansive than this one. it’s good to know that there are a few shows i went to that i don’t have recordings of that were taped.

    • John

      awesome thanks

      a few memories from the 97 trax c-ville show w/ mogwai:

      –i got lost on the way and decided to ask a group of dudes walking down the street where the club was, of course it was steve and ibold on their way downtown, they then had a nice laugh at my expense
      –waiting in packed crowd the trax bouncers severely pummeled some drunken guy up front and he was quite bloody; never thought i’d see such violence at a pavement show

  3. dig the post, JM!

  4. Pingback: » Pavement “Brighten the Corners” Nicene Creedence Edition on All Our Noise Trigger Cut

  5. I was watching more of the treble kickers vids on the YouTube and surprisingly found “Breastfeeding Toddlers” under the related links. I thought it was funny.

    • John

      Haha yeah yikes dude, only 8 million views for those breastfeed videos … Hmmm

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