Since its release on April 20, 1992, Pavement‘s debut album, “Slanted and Enchanted” has gone onto to influence countless indie rockers looking to make a difference with a guitar or two and some sloppy drums. Like The Velvet Underground before them, the band pushed the limits of simplistic stream-of-conscience style songwriting and the results were often excellent. Having previously released three EPS as a duo with the help of engineer and drummer Gary Young, Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg (under the aliases SM and Spiral Stairs) recorded “Slanted and Enchanted” in two distinct sessions between studios in Brooklyn, NY and Stockton, CA in late 1991 and early 1992.
While auxiliary member Bob Nastanowich was in the picture, his presence was more as an assistant rather than an actual member. As the record neared completion and was ready to be properly toured, bassist Mark Ibold was recruited while Gary Young officially became the drummer until his alcoholism became too much to deal with in the early stages of the “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” sessions. Together they were a rag-tag team of lo-fi college rockers with no real expectations of what future lay ahead of them. While they never became superstars, their music was considered indie rock sacred ground that only got holier in the years since their passing. Their absence in the ’00s only built their mystique more and more so that by the time they reconvened for a reunion tour in 2010, they were met with sold out shows and a nearly hysterical fanbase, frothing at the mouth for a glimpse of their heroes in action.
Getting back to the album, “Slanted and Enchanted” was a rather large milestone for indie music, but also for the band themselves. “Slay Tracks (1933-1969),” “Demolition Plot J-7,” and “Perfect Sound Forever,” were great avant garde rock statements, but they had a tinny inaccessibility that seemed to seal them in obscure indie nerd territory. The 7″ for “Summer Babe” released in 1991 revealed the first hint of radio-friendly compatibility. Their relationship with their poppier side was love/hate throughout their careers, often snapping back at any potential FM concessions with a snarky rejection of it (case and point — the difficult “Wowee Zowee”‘s deliverance after the near hit of “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”).
Still, “Slanted and Enchanted” found a nice common ground, with songs like “No Life Singed Her” and “Conduit For Sale!” ripping by venomously next to the positive vibes of “Summer Babe” and “Trigger Cut.” The band also found a surprisingly tender side to themselves, most particularly on “Here” and “Zürich Is Stained,” the former being one of the group’s most affecting ballads.
For celebration of its 20th anniversary, we advise you to throw on a copy of the record if you have one handy, but to also check out this clip of the band playing in Los Angeles on May 28th, 1992, As usual, Gary Young is warming up the audience, telling jokes and championing his love for Yes. The band gets off to a rough start but eventually starts rocking out hard in this fan shot clip. You can hear them playing some “S&E” highlights along with some older tracks and new material from the then forthcoming “Watery, Domestic” EP.