Autobiographical Order No. 60: Pavement – Brighten the Corners

And we close out this week with yet another gem from My Wife’s Record Collection. I think most of my friends, and a great number of people my age, have fond memories of discovering Pavement for the first time. They’re basically one of the key  starter indie bands along with The Pixies and Guided by Voices, and each of their five albums is pretty solid (and a handful of them, namely Crooked Rain Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted, are phenomenal). I first heard them via Alternative Nation on MTV back in the ’90s, where I saw the hilarious video for “Cut Your Hair,” the closest thing the band had to a hit.

The first Pavement album I actually bought was 1997’s Brighten the Corners, mostly on the strength of “Shady Lane,” another track I heard via MTV (a quaint notion these days — nobody discovers any music on MTV anymore). It was enough to make me pick up the CD, which I listened to at least seven million times, I’m sure. And oddly enough, “Embassy Row” was a staple on the 91X playlist that year, which — well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since alternative radio played anything that sounded like Pavement.

My wife and I met in high school, and were actually good friends for a long time before we ever started dating. And in senior year, we started going to shows together, something that hasn’t changed in our 14 years together. Pavement I’m pretty sure was the first show we went to, at the fairly tacky Canes Bar & Grill in Mission Beach (R.I.P.). The place felt gimmicky for a rock club, though we saw some good shows there over the years (Interpol, Rocket from the Crypt, …Trail of Dead). They only played one song from this album — “Shady Lane” as a matter of fact — but it stands as one of my favorite shows in all the time I’ve been seeing live music. Their first song was “Cut Your Hair,” and at the end of the show, Spiral Stairs knocked down a ceiling panel, from which we took a few pieces. We may or may not still have one somewhere; I’m not usually one for keeping artifacts, but that was a cool one to have.

Brighten the Corners isn’t as highly acclaimed as the band’s other albums, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good, or even great. There are no bad songs to speak of, though “Type Slowly” has Stephen Malkmus singing off key more than usual, which I don’t really care for. He can sing better, despite the shambling, slacker image that the band has/had. Still, Brighten the Corners hasn’t worn out its welcome in 18 years, and has the added benefit of some fun memories.

Rating: 9.0

Sound Quality: Great

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