Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Deluxe Edition)
||"All My Friends"
It's hard for me not to get nostalgic while writing this review
for Matador's deluxe CD reissue of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
Back in the day, I caught the Pavement bug with Slanted &
Enchanted, wearing out two cassette copies in my car stereo.
Days before their second album was set to come out, I impatiently
convinced the frizzy-haired, acid-fried owner of the local record
store in St. Petersburg, FL to sell me his shop's CD promo of
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The plastic cover was broken,
the inlay card had a big tear, and I happily paid full price.
Even though I was now into my twenties, I still had an almost-adolescent
exuberance for the group.
Their sophomore album would mark a new era for the band, and
looking back 10 or more years, it's even more apparent. By the
early-'94 release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement
was no longer the faceless entity of the mysterious duo of SM
and Spiral Stairs. They had names now, Stephen Malkmus and Scott
Kannberg, and a proper band whose ramshackle live performances
(largely in part to 40-something year old prankster/drummer Gary
Young's drunken antics) became a part of the early Pavement mythos.
Young's unpredictability would turn into detriment and he was
soon replaced by the amble, bespectacled Steve West before the
proper recording of this album was to begin.
It was here that the group would enter this new phase, refining
a "sound" from their myriad of influences, and while
still keeping their arrangements loose and open, would become
all at once tighter and confident. Ironically recorded in a pieced
together studio in midtown Manhattan, the group's jangly West
Coast roots would come through shimmering pop gems like "Range
Life," "Gold Soundz" and "Newark Wilder,"
while "Cut Your Hair" would become a modern rock hit
of sorts and make Pavement a household name to viewers of Alternative
Nation and 120 Minutes. Though Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
would be the group's most successful selling album, the record
is far from a crossover reach to mainstream. Malkmus' lyrics cryptically
reference the music biz, rock stars and a tennis tournament, and
noise-damaged tracks like "Unfair" and "Hit the
Plane Down," and the leftfield Dave Brubeck tribute "5-4=
Unity" are uniquely Pavement. Slanted & Enchanted
may be the ground zero starting point for any fan of the band,
but Crooked Rain is just as essential in their discography.
This 2-CD reissue not only includes a remastered version of the
original record, but disc one also contains all the b-sides and
compilation tracks recorded and released during this era, circa
'93 to '94. Much of the second disc connects the dots between
Slanted and Crooked, featuring early versions of
several of CRCR's tracks recorded with Gary Young, as well
as 12 unreleased songs and four Peel Session tracks. (Some of
these tracks are also early takes for songs which would appear
later on the band's Wowee Zowee album.) A 62-page booklet
includes interviews with Matador's Gerard Cosloy, lots of photos,
and liner notes from both SM and Spiral. To this day, Pavement's
influence can still be heard in young indie rock bands, sometimes
the copycatting almost too painful to listen to. Yet 10 or so
years later, to these ears Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain still
sounds as fresh as it did in 1994. Gold Soundz indeed. [GH]