Pavement – Brighten The Corners (Nicene Creedence Edition) (Domino)
In keeping with run of Pavement reissues (with tremendous expansion), Brighten The Corners feels like a little more of the band’s ever-difficult legacy being unveiled. With hindsight and the benefit of much bonus material, it’s easier to guess the reasons why their sound changed and how the songs were written. Their fourth record, Brighten The Corners, came after the camp-dividing experimentation of Wowee Zowee and saw the band… not retreat exactly… but certainly streamline and calm themselves. Where, when the band first released their occasionally impenetrably scratchy and mischievous records, they would purposefully annoy the listener by not tuning their instruments, clanging when they should have chimed, they began to accept the virtue of having musical constructions fill themselves out. Less mischief does not dim the band by any stretch.
Brighten The Corners contains several slow-burners, the most serene work of their career. Shady Lane in particular has unbeatable warmth, gently teetering on the verge of collapse at all times, but all the more charming for it – is this a return to that shakiness everyone decided was just so self-conscious on their first two records? No! Of course not! They’re messing around! Listen to how tight the band sounds on Stereo, Transport Is Arranged and the joyous Spiral Stairs-penned Date w/ IKEA! They’ve been able to competently play their instruments for ages now, get with it cack-handed guitar lovers!
In short, it’s the band’s most seamless work – ignore anyone who describes this as a dilution of that experimentation we saw before. They’ve merely harnessed the skills they picked up from that experience and transferred it to a more approachable set of songs. There.
The bonus material, though, opens things up even more. Then (The Hexx) (familiar to owners of the Perfect Sound Forever DVD) is a sprawling, soaring reminder that Pavement loved to wig out still, but with that new-found ease, that softness of expression. Elsewhere, we get proof that Westie Can Drum via seriously fuzzed bass and surprisingly simple structure, we’re treated to a sweet (not in the ‘dude!’ sense) of The Killing Moon, and we eavesdrop on all manner of Peel sessions, radio performances and discarded tunes from the parent album. The highlights of all this are numerous, too numerous to mention every single one, but special attention should be given to the alternative intro to Embassy Row, which would have drastically altered the whole flow of the record, turning it into a more experience-led venture rather than a collection of songs, and the spooked live recording of Space Ghost Theme I & II, which harks back to that near-unreachable harshness captured on their earliest releases.
Unsurprisingly, it’s all reliably interesting and excellent, delivered in the inimitably idiosyncratic manner peculiar only to Pavement, and makes for a terribly rewarding experience. It’s not often possible to learn so much from a record as it is here, but you’ll consider yourself a more complete scholar of indie geekdom by getting a copy of this – whether you own the original or not.