Slanted and Enchanted

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Even back in 1991/1992, fans, geeks, and critics found it irresistible to compare Pavement to Nirvana, the underground band that made the concessions to the mainstreams and reaped the rewards, expecting the group that remained doggedly underground to make a rush for the charts, even if it really never made sense, especially when you became acquainted with their debut. Ten years later, give or take a month, each group has a reissue in the store -- one with one track to bait collectors to buy 13 songs they already have, the other with B-sides, EPs, Peel sessions, unreleased sessions, and a full live concert, plus a 50-page booklet, all presented as enhancements to a seminal 14-track album. Generous really isn't the word for this lavish reissue of Pavement's first album, dubbed as Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe -- it offers an embarrassment of riches, with each new song proving that the band really was not just the best of its kind, but the best of its time. A heady statement, to be sure, but few classic albums would have their status bolstered the way that Slanted and Enchanted does here, with 34 (!) bonus tracks, enhancing an already legendary album in ways that are giddily revelatory. Those that trawl file-sharing services or trade CD-Rs might find that they have already heard most of the material here, but even so, nobody can argue with the scope of this reissue, especially since the music is of astoundingly high quality. There are wonders to behold everywhere: the surging "Baptist Blacktick," discovering that the previous unreleased "Nothing Ever Happens" is quoted after "Trigger Cut" as "Wounded-Kite at :17," two John Peel sessions consisting of songs that never made the LPs (and it all could, most notably "Kentucky Cocktail"), Watery, Domestic is revealed as a key transition from Slanted to Crooked Rain with its final song, "Shoot the Singer," standing as one of the band's unheralded classics, and the entirety of the December 14, 1992, concert at the Brixton Academy in London is phenomenal, capturing a notoriously erratic live band at the peak of their powers. There's so much material here, the album itself feels like the bonus! But this isn't rarities for rarities sake: it all has something to offer. No other reissue of a single album of any genre has covered its ground so completely and appealingly; there's simply nothing left in the vaults, or on singles, and everything that's been added is worthwhile. It's essential listening, not just for indie rockers, but any serious rock fan. And here's hoping that the rest of the Pavement catalog is subjected to a similar treatment -- there are great B-sides from Crooked Rain through Terror Twilight that should be preserved in this fashion. (And maybe Matador will be able to reissue Exile in Guyville in a similar fashion for its tenth anniversary in 2003, adding all the Girlysound tapes -- this reissue is so good, it makes you greedy for more.)

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