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.
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