Friday marks the twentieth anniversary of Pavement’s debut album, Slanted & Enchanted. Considered one of the finest indie albums of all time, it’s not hard to see its influence in modern indie bands’ sound; everyone from Modest Mouse to Wavves, can claim an influence from the band’s lo-fi fuzz recordings. Their inspirational debut helped to shape 90s alternative America and the lo-fi slacker generation, paving the way for the likes of Beck, Weezer, Guided by Voices and Built to Spill later on in the decade. Even British bands such as Blur and Radiohead were indebted to Pavement in their early careers.
Recorded by a bunch of sarcastic stoners; security guard and vocalist/guitarist Stephen Malkmus (known under the pseudonym S.M) and guitarist Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg), with help from hippy drummer Gary Young, who owned the studio they recorded in. It was part recorded in Young’s studio in Stockton, California and part in Brooklyn, New York. It was a self-produced masterpiece. Fifteen noisy, yet melodic songs, which sounded sloppy and unfinished, yet still sounding genius and like a work of art. The catchy fuzz riffs and obtuse lyrics, which may sound abrasive at first, make for repeated listens and get suck in your head, even if you don’t have a clue what Malkmus is saying. Pavement give off that “Ramones” effect of wondering if a band couldn’t try any less or be anymore sloppy, yet still make kickass anthems.
Officially released on April 20, 1992 on Matador Records, it had been surfacing around the underground on cassette tapes a year previously. Though Pavement never received the mass attention that many of their 90s alt rock contemporaries did, they still received mass critical praise. Slanted & Enchanted received perfect tens, that Nadia Comaneci would be proud of, from the NME, Spin and Pitchfork. Rolling Stone listed it at 134th on their 500 Greatest Albums of all Time list. Blender called it the “greatest indie album of all time”. However, not everyone was a big fan. The Fall’s Mark E. Smith said Pavement were a “rip off” of his band, and they “didn’t have an original idea in their heads.” Ouch. The other members of The Fall were far more complimentary, however.
Pavement would later become a full band, hiring bassist Mark Ibold, percussionist Bob Nastanovich and replacing Young with Steve West on drums, and go onto record other masterpieces, such as Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee. Unlike the vast majority of their colleagues, Pavement never signed to a major label and stayed independent throughout their career.
Considering Pavement were never more than a cult underground band, it’s amazing, how 20 years later, they now sound like the radio regulars they never were. It’s a testament to their sound and their influence. Slanted & Enchanted was one of the earliest bursts of creativity from within the American 90s underground, yet as a tribute to its standing, is still sounding as fresh and original 20 years later.