Boomkat Product Review:
Pavement's 1997 opus 'Brighten The Corners' undergoes the reissue treatment, following in the footsteps of their first three classic albums, packaged with unreleased live and studio recordings, plus all the B-sides and compilation tracks from the period.
When this record was first released, Pavement were starting to get some mainstream attention here in the UK thanks to bands like Blur citing them as a major influence. Consequently you'd get surreal TV moments like Jayne Middlemiss interviewing Stephen Malkmus and co. on The O-Zone and telling the band that they sounded out of tune. Oh, the indignity. Brighten The Corners spawned memorable singles 'Stereo' and 'Shady Lane', which helped raise the band's profile further in mainstream circles, whilst memorable Peel Session and Evening Session recordings for the BBC did the rounds too. Documents of these recordings are included on this double-disc set, so you can finally throw out those dusty old cassette recordings you poached from radio broadcasts and listen to that righteous cover of 'The Killing Moon' in digital clarity... although come to think of it, you could already do that on the Major Leagues EP.
Whatever. It's an entirely good thing that all this material should be made available in one handy location, alongside well-worn album tracks and recordings that have never been available before. Listening through Brighten The Corners you're reminded of just how formidable Pavement sounded as a rock band: as wordy and nerdish as they might have been, they could also kick out the jams with the best of them, taking a firm grasp of classic rock band dynamics and cranking up the fuzz where necessary. Significantly, when the band hit the chorus on 'Stereo' or break into their stride during 'Transport Is Arranged' there's nothing ironic or half-hearted about the unrestrained power-chord posturing. Another thing that strikes you about all this is that Pavement lyrics, however wilfully obscure they might tend to be, always seem to evade clever-cleverness or mere empty wit - there's a genuine warmth and meaning at the centre of these colourful labyrinths.
Oddly, the wily absurdist exchanges of 'Harness Your Hopes' ("And the freaks have stormed the Whitehouse/I moved into a lighthouse/It's on a scenic quay/Its oh so far away") come across as if a distant cousin to Oasis' nonsensical yet strangely potent 'Supersonic' lyrics, but Malkmus is capable of delivering the killer final verse that Noel Gallagher never did: "And I'm living in a coma/For Donna de Varona/The harness made of hopes/The lovers on the ropes/Nun is to church/As the parrot is to perch/And my heart's wide open truly". To cap off an already pretty darn essential package (there are 44 tracks in total), the liner notes and photography in the 62-page booklet could hardly be more informative and insightful.