Slanted & Enchanted is the first studio album of the notorious Stockton, California alt-rock band Pavement. The project results from various hours of crazy jamming and recording with a low-quality 4-track recorder. Thus this record shows little to no consistency in terms of production: the vocals are buried deep within in the mix, in certain tracks almost indistinguishable from the twisted wall of sound (No Life Singed Her, Conduit For Sale!), nagging feedbacks to sprout everywhere, along with noises of all kinds and compressed ultra-distorted guitar tones.
Nonetheless, this unique, almost ironic approach to rock music, combined with the refined sarcasm of the lyrics written by singer/frontman Stephen Malkmus, contributed to the success of the lo-fi musical “movement” and generated a proper wave of artists and bands inspired by this raw and caustic approach towards “making music” from the early 2000s on.
Pavement’s ironic approach to rock music
The album excels at telling what not to do if you want to become a rockstar or a famous musician/performer. It is a sardonic laugh addressed to the musical star system, that even at the beginning of the ’90s was becoming a little stale and pathetic. Ironically the Pavement later, with their second album would rather find themselves on the verge of mainstream, though they would never achieve pure commercial success.
The songs in the tracklist flow like a unique stream of consciousness given birth by Malkmus’s irresistible sense of humor. The opener Summer Babe- Winter Version is a noisy dream-pop tune with an ultra-catchy vocal line that hooks instantly the listener, then we find the punkiest edge of the work with songs like No Life Singed Her, immediately followed by the dissonant crunchy arpeggios and salty guitar distortions of In The Mouth A Desert.
Fragments of pop songs overloaded with feedbacks
In general, these songs sound like scattered pieces of rather enjoyable pop-songs assembled with a cut-up-like technique, creating a result that’s equal parts disturbing and refreshing. Later on the tracklist, the listener confronts Loretta’s Scars, one of the most dissonant tunes on Slanted & Enchanted with reverberating feedback in the mix and various guitar works layers intertwining together over a background of flowing talked vocals.
But there’s one song that fitly expresses the concept behind the whole project: Here. It’s a charming quiet three-chords ballad that shows one of the most successful lyrical work by Malkmus:
I was dressed for success
But success it never comes
And I’m the only one who laughs
At your jokes when they are so bad
And your jokes are always bad
But they’re not as bad as this
Come join us in a prayer
We’ll be waiting waiting where
Everything’s ending here.
You can find Slanted & Enchanted on Spotify