35 Albums in 35 Years: 1992

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.

 

pavement1992: Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted

I’m sure that snarky, self-aware, off-kilter pop music has existed for a long time (Zappa anyone?), but when I was a teenager raging against the machine, afloat in a downward spiral of dirt, super unknowns and neverminds, Pavement was a sarcastic breath of fresh air. There’s only so much unrest and angst you can take before it turns you into some kind of ho-hum sad sack, so the band’s debut album Slanted and Enchanted was a great way to even yourself out. Stephen Malkmus and crew seemed to thumb their noses at everything, tongue in cheek, like the cool mysterious loner making fun of all the other kids, all the other cliques in the lunchroom. It was a skill the band would develop well over each of their excellent five albums, but it all started here.

The early and mid 1990’s were rife with records that seemingly sounded like nothing else on Earth, yet still managed to burst the popular culture bubble to find a modicum of success among the freaks and misfits out there (more to come on some of those over the next couple of articles). Nirvana’s success opened up the veritable flood gates of major labels signing different, odd, and “alternative” bands who otherwise may not have seen the exposure and hype that they were afforded because of it. Smaller indie labels flourished. There was a buzz around everything. And while these bands didn’t necessarily sound like Nirvana, they were lumped in with each other during this band-signing frenzy. Sure, a lot of garbage and crud managed to break into the mainstream because of this, but there was pure gold out there too. There were albums that stick with you for decades. These albums didn’t tear up the charts or anything like that (with a notable exception or two), they just made enough of a wave to make an impact on a whole bevy of young and impressionable listeners…like me.

Pavement was one of those gems of alternative and indie rock that surfaced in 1992. Their sound was their own, even if it seemed to borrow from The Fall here and there…and everywhere. They always sounded like your older brother’s band, like a group of snotty, sarcastic college kids that were way too smart for their own good. Malkmus may come off like an asshole every now and again, but he’s a sardonic, witty one at that, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t seem like coolest guy in the room.

“Summer Babe” kicks the record off, a cool breeze of static pop that offers up a glimpse of where the rest of Slanted and Enchanted is headed. Flares of classic song structure slam against odd arrangements, often-irreverent lyrics, and layers of discordance, an Avant Garde, art-punk opus. In a lot of ways, the album comes off as pure, untempered energy, an almost lackadaisical affair with all its flaws and ticks up front for the masses to hear, its character on its sleeve.

And then there are the songs with a tinge of melancholy to them, a forlornness paired with sarcasm that really stabs at you in a way other songs aren’t capable of. A song like “Here,” for example, basically supplies the record with an underlying heart, an unseen depth amongst all the snarkiness and leftfield noise.

Pavement would go on to harness and perfect their sound through the rest of the 1990’s with four more brilliant records before their inevitable breakup. (All good things have to come to an end, right?) But they would never sound as immediate or of the moment as they did with their first effort.

I miss them.

- Favorite song: “In the Mouth a Desert”
– Runner up: “Here”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Faith No More’s Angel Dust; Sonic Youth’s Dirty; Ministry’s Psalm 69; Leonard Cohen’s The Future; Chris Bell’s I Am the Cosmos; Nine Inch Nails’ Broken.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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