Brighten the Corners

Pavement’s Autumnal Fourth Record Turns 25

It was around the time after Matador released the superlative re-issue of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, when I rediscovered Pavement, through the internet, on one Radiohead fansite, on music review sites and online magazines. People were just sharing stuff, and before long, I have Pavement’s first, second, and fourth album, waiting for me to listen. Probably gave Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain a few spins, Slanted & Enchanted, maybe once or twice (initially found it too “lo-fi” for my taste), before I decided to seek and search for that song that first introduced me to Pavement, the fantabulous “Shady Lane,” which led me to the warm bright orange melodies dressed in dark cryptic guitar tunes that is Brighten the Corners, Pavement’s relatively less heralded fourth record.

Some say Brighten the Corners is a more “conventional” Pavement record, especially when compared to the serpentine joyride through the zoo that is Wowee Zowee. But it’s definitely not Crooked Rain Crooked Rain part deux. Some people thinks that it’s a more logical follow-up to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain but they’re probably discounting the amount of zaniness in it that spilled down from the brim of Wowee Zowee. Yes, I’m pretty positive that there were still traces of marijuana found on Stephen Malkmus’ weewee zewee for much of the duration of the Mitch Easter-helmed Nicene Creedence sessions.

“Shady Lane” was my first Pavement song. It remained the only song of theirs that I heard and knew until the internet took over the world in mid-zeroes, which then led me to discover my long lost favorite band. “Shady Lane” was a first for them — there’s nothing like it on their earlier albums. It’s a sweet little circular song. That line about being an extra in a movie, is nothing short of brilliant. “Stereo” is another first. Here, Malkmus seems to be trying to out-freestyle Beck, probably falls flat on his face, but it’s still cool because he doesn’t really care about winning in the first place.*** Like a blank-want list, this will drown in a creek of distorted guitar choruses, odd timed basslines, and half-sung absurdist lyrics.

(***Malkmus is all about trying. And just to make things clear, Yoda was wrong, there is no there is no try. There are infinite points and possibilities between do and do not. There’s a vast universe between them and in that universe are tiny specs of light and one of them is called trying.)

And since Pavement and Matador conspired to front-load the album, to the surprise of their unsuspecting fans, the song placed in the third slot, “Transport Is Arranged” is another surefire winner. This song, though slower than both “Stereo” and “Shady Lane”, has both the spiky characteristics of the former and subtly serpentine melodies of the latter. Also, great lyrics. See below.

You better find your way out, you better learn how to run. You better walk away, and leave the angles for the shills. Well, I’ve been thinking for days, about the means and the ways that I could hate all I touch. I know, you’re my lady but I could trickle, I could flood — a voice coach taught me to sing, he couldn’t teach me to love — all the above. Easy talkin’ border blockin’ transport is arranged.

Spiral Stairs a.k.a. Scott Kannberg surely didn’t want to be left behind in this frontloading business, so his first song on this album, “Date with Ikea,” comes next. It is a really catchy little song, with a kick-ass chorus and lots of distortion. Years later, some people would steal the idea and use it in a movie. A movie filled with many indie music nods, and ends up doing nothing but nod all the way through – like a hipster cluelessly nodding to live music in a Vampire Weekend concert. Looking at you, 500 Days of Summer.

I haven’t really gotten around to finish this draft, which belies my immense love for the album and everything Pavement. (See, it’s not either you do or you don’t because obviously, all I was able to do here, was try.) Anyway, Happy Birthday Brighten the Corners!


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