Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slanted and Enchanted

There is a Blockbuster’s worth of "classic" movies I haven't seen, and a record store’s worth of "classic" albums. Thankfully I now have Netflix, and BitTorrent. I am attempting to fill in those gaps. Please do not leave comments saying "zomg, i can't believe u haven't seen/heard _____." Please do send suggestions.

Slanted and Enchanted

It was some time back in the early 2000s, a decade after Pavement released its subcultural torpedo, Slanted and Enchanted, when a more-musically subcultured friend first told me about it. It’s the greatest indie rock album of all time. You like Nirvana, right? This is better. You gotta check it out.

So, I did, once or twice. And I just didn’t get it. In an increasingly rare act, I actually deleted the burned MP3’s from my almost-never-decreasing iTunes library.

Now, another decade after my first listen, and two decade’s after everybody else’s first listen, Pavement is coming back, and people are losing it. At their first show in ten years, the band played more songs from Slanted and Enchanted than any other album. So, I listened, again. And I still didn’t get it.

This is the first review of our ongoing series here where the subject simply proved impenetrable. "Slanted and Enchanted" seems like an artifact from its time and place: a time when where louder was almost always better and a place where kids still recorded in garages. The drums sound only dread and the guitar just sounds...well, it makes a lot of sounds, loudly. These aren’t bad things; just jarring things. There are notable breathers – “Trigger Cut” is delightfully melodic on a third listen, and "Two States" is catchy enough. But the rest is a blunt, if venerable, piece of indie history.

Midway through listening and writing, several more friends told me I needed to go back and listen again - that it was an album that would grow over time. And it's true that the songs burn slowly, and riffs I hadn't noticed before suddenly appeared through the fog. I still don't quite get it; but if this was 1992, and I was sitting in a bedroom with a cassette player, I can see exactly what there was to get.

Reeves Wiedeman