Pavement's New Adventures In Lo-Fi

Cover art from upcoming Pavement album, Brighten The Corners.

One of the cool things about living in Japan is that occasionally

new music comes out here before it is available in other parts of the world.

Such is the case with the excellent new Pavement album, Brighten The

Corners, their fourth, which was released here on January 8th.

Brighten The Corners was recorded by Mitch Easter (who is best

known for his work behind the boards of R.E.M.'s legendary Murmur) and

Bryce Goggin. It is Pavement's most focused, mature album; production on all of

the songs, from the opening "Stereo," which is instantly hummable, through the

closing ballad "Fin," is excellent, yet the group has managed to retain the

lo-fi sensibilities (read, weirdness) that instantly identify this as a

Pavement album. This is a well-crafted album of aesthetically satisfying (in

other words, fly) Pavement pop songs.

The album alternates between

mid-tempo rockers with bone-crunching choruses and ballads which build to

climactic guitar-driven jam climaxes. There are musical name-checks throughout:

"Date With IKEA" could be mistaken for a new Tom Petty or Byrds song; "Embassy

Row" has some Troggs-inspired background vocals, to give just two


There are all kinds of interesting sounds happening on

Brighten the Corners: a flute carrying the melody and a compressed,

ethereal drum break in "Transport is Arranged;" a harpsichord introduction to

the Beatlesque "We Are Underused;" and all manner of percussion, including

congas, claves and maracas, throughout the album.

Brighten The Corners is also the first Pavement

album with a lyric sheet (and the songs here are generally more serious than

past Pavement records-- houses on shady lanes, new cars, weddings,

communicating in relationships...), which means that fans will no longer have

to debate exactly what it was the band were singing; fans will be able to prove

without a doubt that in "Stereo," Steve Malkmus sings:

"What about the

voice of Geddy Lee,

"How did it get so high?

"I wonder if he speaks

like an ordinary guy"

And in "Type Slowly:"

"One of us is a cigar


"And one of us is a lovely blue incandescent guillotine


edge of creation is blurred and blushed

"Not a lot of room to grow inside

this leather terrarium"

The Japanese version of Brighten The Corners

contains two bonus tracks: "Wanna Mess You Around," which is a straight-ahead

hilarious hard-core thrash (the chorus is a refrain of "I Wanna Fuck Around");

and "No Tan Lines," which features a vaguely Latin rhythm, sitar-like guitar,

and a Beach Boys-like bridge. Well done.

[Brighten The Corners will

be released in the U. S. on Feb. 11; we'll be running a full-blown review in

"44.1 kHz."]