Pavement are really special. We knew this in 1992 when, as US college- rock deviants decked in fashionable plaid, they made the coolest noise in the salad days of grunge and slackerdom. We know it even more now that, even though Oasis and Blur have long booted most Yank rockers out of British favour, Pavement are still welcome. They have a knack for being aloof, wryly humorous and infuriating in a way that no British band has been able to match, a fact that comes into sharp focus when listening to their new album Brighten the Corners.
Unlike the cheery 1994 Crooked Rain, the new disc makes no concessions to back-to-basics, tuneful pleasantries, so that the band are now further away from mainstream Anglo sounds than ever. The record is more like an assault course of wayward avant-rock melodics, despite the fact that its co-producer is Mitch Easter, who also co-produced early REM albums like Murmur and Reckoning. And at the heart of their maverick sonic endeavours such as "Blue Hawaiian" are the mind-bendingly oblique lyrics of croaky frontman Steve Malkmus. He is the ultimate anti-Spice Girl, and he is 10 Damon Albarns when it comes to observational witticisms, so he'll always have the last laugh on anyone who claims to understand exactly what he's warbling about.
As with previous albums, Brighten the Corners sometimes puts the band in battle with themselves, as they try not to get too weird on us. On the catchy "Embassy Row", this is a good thing. But overall, Pavement have the complexity to tie you up in knots, and are all the sexier for it. Live they are charmingly unpredictable. And, as their tour support includes Quickspace, Mogwai, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Broadcast, it's well worth turning up nice and early.
EYE ON THE NEW
Liquid, smooth funk meets ambient techno in the hands of The Egg, a boiler-suited quartet who've been pleasing dance crowds with tracks from their debut album since last summer's festival season. These upcoming dates are in support of an as yet unnamed February single.
Maidstone Union Bar 24 Jan, Chelmsford Army & Navy 25 Jan, Bournemouth Old Fire Station 29 JanReuse content