Own It or Disown It: #261: Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted

OwnItorDisownIt

Pavement's iconic debut album turns twenty-five years old this week.

The story of Napster itself is a mighty complicated mess of emotions, feelings, and rights, but one story out of that mess registers to me as nothing besides pure hilarity. With Napster blowing up in the year 2000 concurrent to the return of a certain weird, beloved pop-rock group led by a man who looked like Buddy Holly, some pirates decided to fuck with people and upload several Pavement albums to the service and tried to pass them off as leaked Weezer albums. The punchline is that this worked on a lot of people, some of whom likely not learning the truth until many years later, if ever. Haven given Slanted and Enchanted a fresh couple of listens this week, I can see how people could have bought into that lie. Heck, maybe the Green Album should’ve been a series of Slanted and Enchanted covers. We wouldn’t have known the difference.

Slanted and Enchanted is not just a playful turn of phrase but a mission statement. Pavement’s brand of rock here oscillates between low-fi pop that suggests a first draft of a Weezer song (before pretention and studio gloss are injected into the product) and noise rock that leans harder on noise than rock. It’s a mess in terms of sonic consistency, but it feels like an earned mess instead of a failure of keeping things clean. The sound may be all over the place, but that helps Slanted and Enchanted maintain an element of surprise over the course of many listens. The big pacing trick here is that just when Pavement’s brand of the garagiest garage rock that ever garage rocked starts getting a little old is when the last few tracks bleed into each other in a way that makes them sound like parts of the same song but also work as individual tracks. It helps that the worst of these songs aren’t bad, just really…fucking…weird. Seriously, Mr. Malkmus, da fuck is up with “Chesley’s Little Wrists”?

With all of that said, I don’t know that I’d call Slanted and Enchanted a great album. I think it is a pretty good album, one that is well worth going out of one’s way to listen to, but I don’t think it is “the quintessential indie rock album” (Rolling Stone) that “gave us yanks a band as inscrutable as the best undergrounders of Britain and Germany” (Pitchfork) whose only drawback is that “it occasionally seems too perfect” (Allmusic—were that I listened to more music with that flaw). There’s no moment here that struck me as genius or greatness, just a whole bunch of really good noise-rock that I feel has been done better in the twenty-five years since its release. Maybe this would’ve registered as an all-time classic if I had listened to it in 1992, or 2000 under the mistaken belief that it wasn’t a Pavement album, but in 2017, it’s just really, really good, and I’m fine with that.

VERDICT: OWN

Read past editions of Own It or Disown It.

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