Pavement - The Secret History (Volume One)

by D R Pautsch Rating:7 Release Date:2015-08-14

The first time I came across Pavement was on the excellent No Alternative compilation for Red, Hot and Blue (If you haven’t checked that out you should. It’s an album so good that Nirvana’s 'Sappy' is a hidden track on it. Although Soul Asylum’s cover of 'Sexual Healing' is something ears were not meant for). Pavement contributed a track called 'Unseen Power of the Picket Fence', a ramshackle homage to R.E.M. which ends with the sound of a wagon train. 

Simply put, it's Pavement at their best. It’s also an indication of the wealth of material they recorded. In 2002 a new version of their first album, Slanted & Enchanted, was released and it contained (as did the following album reissues) an extra disk of rarities and live cuts as well as a huge booklet covering the album, those re-releases were essential.  Now these are being released by themselves, without the original album, and entitled The Secret History.  Volume one covers Slanted & Enchanted and is identical to the re-releases.  Quite who this new release appeals to is slightly baffling and leaving aside the obvious let’s focus on the music.

Some of the tracks here could (should?) have been on the original album.  Here contains one of the most intriguing opening lines of any Pavement song.  Malkmus drawls ‘I was dressed for success’ over a lazy electric guitar and you instantly wonder what his interpretation of that kind of attire would be?  Summer Babe is good in any version and here the 7” version shines.  Baptist Blacktick is a Fall influenced (by Malkmus’ own admission) number that fires with wit and energy.  Circa 1762 descends into a simple but catchy number that includes feedback, growl and a bittersweet delivery that is all the trademark of the band as well as an economy of lyrics.  The live numbers are good but really nothing stands out.

Pavement’s legacy is fantastic and their output was prolific, wonderful but frustrating.  Some Pavement numbers pulled together from the very first note.  Some on the very last note.  Some never did.  There are enough of each of these categories and the ones in between to make this a quintessential Pavement compliation.

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