Slanted and Enchanted

Damn, I’ve been on a posting frenzy lately…

Got a lot to say, I guess. Must be springtime, wiping out the winter Seasonal Affective Disorder. ‘Bout damn time, I say.

Any ol’ way, I wanted to write about this new band I’ve been listening to. Well, new to me, anyway. I mentioned a couple of days ago that I’ve found a new band to listen to.

They’re Pavement, an indie band from the ’90s. I found them by looking through the All Music Guide (it’s a link-fest, in addition to being a post-fest!) for bands that I liked, and trying out the bands that the AMG said sounded similar. Behold the power of HTML! What did we do before the IntarWeb?

I guess we just talked to people to find out who the cool bands were. Or something. At least for me, I just listened to the radio, but I’m learning that there’s lots of cool music around that isn’t on the radio. Weird idea, huh? Don’t tell Clear Channel, though.

Anyway, I’ve listened to Pavement’s first two albums, “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”. Of the two, I actually like the second album better. “S&E” (I bought it used, from my favorite used record store, Everyday Music (they don’t have a website, just a placeholder; no linkie) because I’m cheap; didn’t spend twice the money to get the re-issued two-disk version with the bonus tracks (where was I? Oh, right)(almost lost track of my asides, there))… “S&E” is more muted sounding, and I think by the second album the band was having more fun with their sound. According to the AMG, Pavement was started as a studio project for Stephen Malkmus and his friends, and gradually became an actual band.

Of course, it turns out that Pavement’s only radio hit, “Cut Your Hair”, is from the album I like. I just can’t get away from my radio-friendliness, I guess. But my favorite two tracks from the album are “Heaven is a Truck” and “Stop Breathin'”.

“Stop Breathin'”, on my first couple of listens, seemed to be a spooky moody sci-fi war song. Only partly true, if the lyrics I’ve been able to find online are any indication. I like my interpretation better, though. The narrator starts out singing about being wounded in the first falling of “The Core”, which to my mind sounded very much like a Matrix- or Terminator-type war against artificial intelligence. The narrator continues, pleading for someone to stop breathing for him — perhaps he’s being kept alive by the machines? His complaint about no one waking up fit in with my mental images.

Sure, there’s a more mundane explanation for the lyrics: Instead of “The Core” he could be saying “The Corps” — as in Marine Corps. And instead of being kept alive by intelligent machines, he could just be in a coma and hooked up to a respirator. Boring, not to mention it’s been done before: Metallica’s “One”.

The song ends with a long outro that goes on for minutes, and completes the haunting feeling of Malkmus’ pained lyrics.

“Heaven Is A Truck” tells the story of an aging beauty queen, hitching a ride and seeking acceptance and, possibly, love, from strangers. Another great, self-contained story.

Check them out if you like sombre, mellow, near-punk sounds. Pavement’s lyrics have some of the irony and humor of Cake’s music, but only a little, and a much darker edge.