Saturday, November 24, 2012

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)

Part II, the sequel: The grand Pavement experiment continues. There are a couple of EP releases between this album and the first, and I recall liking at least one of them (Watery Domestic) quite a bit. Scanning through the reviews at various sites (Christgau and Amazon customers, chiefly), I see that Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is widely taken as essentially more of the same, somewhat tidied up and improved with melody and experience. There's nothing there I can disagree with—I certainly don't see it as any better or worse than the debut. And I hear it and listen to it in the same way, the entire album as given, sequencing and all, which is distinguished across its 42+ minutes by hooks and moments that seem less part of any song than of the album itself abstractly, as zeitgeist, weltschmerz, or whatever suitably Germanic phrase pleases you (because it somehow seems like it should be Germanic). The second half of "Stop Breathin," as an example, offers up a pleasant guitar interplay instrumental that doesn't seem to have much to do with the first half, except I guess conceptually. It sounds like the kind of thing that gets worked out in rehearsal, various inspirations caught and braided neatly together, and every time it comes along it makes me happy. One song, "5-4=Unity," doesn't sound much to me like anything else on the album or indeed in their catalog, another hooky instrumental, this time with a bit of cheek, like something out of a spy movie. I generally like Steve Malkmus's yelpy singing, especially when the band comes surging in behind him (as on "Gold Sounds"). I like the creaky sound of the band, which feels like it is holding it together but barely, because it makes the moments of inspiration jump out that much more. Pavement on these albums reminds me of bands like the Neats or even the Feelies, incorporating tentativeness into the very structure of what they do—because, presumably, so much of their lives as indie rock icons (not that they intended it, but the mantle was thrust on them fully by this point) are plugged into that sense that nothing is sure, all is tentative. Sometimes, as on the chorus of "Range Life," it feels like certainty has finally arrived and the clear-sightedness of it is just invigorating and warming. But here's what worries me. I'm getting to all this by way of a self-imposed homework assignment for my blog, "assess Pavement albums in 400 words," and the problem is that I have rarely been motivated otherwise over all these years to pay them much attention. Maybe time for me to call it a day on this band.

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