'Rain' gets expanded, reissued

BY ALEXANDRA JONES
Daily Weekend Editor
Published October 28, 2004

The members of Pavement are the most unassuming bunch of
guys you’ll ever see. They wear hoodies, jeans, old sneakers
and pleated khakis. They don’t looks like progenitors of
indie-rock, like musical alchemists who sidestepped punk and grunge
to become one of the greatest rock bands of the past 20 years. The
re-issue of their enigmatic sophomore album, Crooked Rain
Crooked Rain
, however, proves them to be just that.

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Mark Ibold: So happy to be in Pavement. (Courtesy of Matador)

Pavement’s history begins with the convoluted-yet-catchy
Slanted & Enchanted, hit in 1992. The band hit West Palm
Beach with its original drummer, the substance-abusing Gary Young,
to record a second album. During these sessions, however, Young had
been playing for another group. Guitarist Spiral Stairs called a
band meeting, and Young walked in to see the goofy Steve West
playing his monogrammed drum set.

With the addition of West, Pavement’s permanent lineup was
complete. The group made three more albums before tensions between
SM and Spiral caused the members of Pavement to part ways. Since
then, fans have been left with albums by Stephen Malkmus’s
dark, quirky new band the Jicks and Spiral’s decidedly
misguided venture Preston School of Industry.

In 2002, on the 10th anniversary of Pavement’s major
debut, Matador released Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe and
Reduxe
, an expanded version featuring the original album
tracks, outtakes, alternate versions and B-sides and the follow-up
EP, Watery, Domestic. Also released was The Slow Century, a DVD
featuring an hourlong documentary on the band, promotional and
music videos, footage of live performances and commentary from the
band. These were pleasant reminders to fans, who had seen indie
rock’s flagship band dissolve. It seemed like more than
enough to remember them by, the best eulogy that Pavement’s
material was likely to get.

But last October, Matador revealed they’d be releasing an
expanded reissue of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,
Pavement’s sprawling, pop-cum-experimental sophomore
release.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.’s Desert Origins
features outtakes, cuts from rare singles and alternate versions
just like Luxe and Reduxe does, but listeners will find this
bonus material quite different. The expansion of Pavement’s
sophomore release includes longer, looser jams that make up what
some fans consider almost a lost album — material that fell
through the cracks during the change in personnel, songs from 1994
sessions that didn’t fit in with the relaxed pop-rock of
Crooked Rain or the dense, dark Wowee Zowee.
It’s these never-released tracks that make L.A.’s
Desert Origins
a must-listen.

The band chose the poppier tracks from the Crooked Rain
sessions to put on the album; many of those included on the
expanded reissue, like the melancholy “Camera” and
intimate “Stare” from the “Cut Your Hair”
single don’t quite work with the original’s easy
formula. Songs like “Flux=Rad” that would make it onto
the more difficult-listening third album Wowee Zowee
don’t sound anything like the broad, anthemic singalongs that
made up the original Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Some tracks
for Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain had already been recorded
with Young, and they’re presented here as the first eight
tracks of the second disc; they’re considerably more
Slanted & Enchanted-like than the material that made it
onto the album. With lyrics like “I don’t wanna leave
ya, but I won’t wanna grieve ya,” Gary-era ballad
“Same Way of Saying” shows Malkmus’s talent for
spastic songwriting.

Disc one includes the original album, B-sides from singles, and
tracks from Arista and Drag City compilations that don’t
stray quite so far from the sonic and idealistic realm established
by Pavement’s second release. Disc 2, however, is where
listeners really feel like they’re mining some kind of secret
vault, a locked desk drawer at Matador crowbarred open.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.’s Desert Origins
is a historical document, like the Dead Sea Scrolls of
’90s indie-rock. Much of the material on disc two fills in
the concept set forth by Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but
tracks that show the early machinations behind Wowee Zowee
are the most fascinating. There’s nothing shameful or wrong
in this just-unearthed material, no revelations or ill-advised
directions — just more beautiful, funny, smart music that
makes one feel bigger and better than they were before.

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.