Friday, October 13, 2006

Embassy Row

Song: Embassy Row
Artist: Pavement
Album: Brighten the Corners

I consider Pavement one of the quintessential indie-rock bands. They road the wave of “alternative” acts that made it big when Nirvana broke, but they stayed close to their indie roots, made Smashing Pumpkin jokes, and aside from the very minor alt radio hit “Cut Your Hair” from 1994’s “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” they never achieved anything above cult status. I think that this was pretty intentional, despite the more pop direction of their last two albums, as for lead singer Stephen Malkmus, indie was a sensibility, as well as way of life.

I got their second album “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” in high school and didn’t really think much of it. I liked “Cut Your Hair,” which was fun… but the rest of the record just didn’t grab me so I ignored the follow up, ‘95’s “Wowee Zowee.” In college, I fell for all the positive reviews and marketing for their next record, ‘97’s “Brighten The Corners.” I really loved the first single, “Shady Lane” and ended up really liking the record quite a bit. Because of this, I went out and got their fabled debut, “Slanted & Enchanted” which just about everyone in modern rock raved about as a modern. After trying desperately to like this record I gave up… thought it was awful, and still do. Oh well.

With “Brighten the Corners” it seemed they had finally kicked the idea of sounding super indie, and raw, or as I like to say… “under-produced.” “Corners” was a bright pop-rock record that retained what I liked best about Pavement, the humorous lyrics and odd song structures, yet they let things sound good, guitars in front, vocals properly recorded, less demo-like. They continued in this vein for what ended up being their final record, 1999’s “Terror Twilight.” Produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck,) “Twilight” is their most cohesive work and in my opinion, a sad testament that they are no longer making records. Malkmus has since released three solo records which I have not heard.

“Embassy Row” from “Brighten the Corners” is one of my favorite songs of theirs. It perfectly illustrates what Pavement is all about, yet also has the more pop sensibility that they were moving towards. There have been recent rumors of a reunion, which we’ll have to wait and see if that manages to come to fruition. In the meantime you’ll have to enjoy the older stuff, which is shockingly ten years old now.


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