There’s no real point talking about the songs, except to note that the recent re-release of Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement’s fabled debut album, has highlighted the band’s applicability to the four song format. To explain, the re-release of this album features two Peel Sessions (each of four tracks’ duration), plus Watery, Domestic and a swag of other releases.
What’s interesting is the way the songs make sense in hindsight: there could have been no Watery, Domestic without “Sue Me Jack” and the delightfully-titled “So Stark (You’re a Skyscraper)” and yet if these songs had been included on the EP (instead of the “Trigger Cut” 7″ single) they would have brought the EP vibe down.
Same for the two Peel Sessions: they’re good and they showcase the band between albums but they do not an EP make. That’s why Watery … is so good: it’s effortless. When I first bought it, I probably listened to it ten times a day.
Mind you, like most other indie kids at the time, I was obsessed with Pavement. I ended up seeing them about five times live (in Australia) – each time they lost a little of the spark that made Slanted … (and Watery …) so utterly brilliant. Interestingly, talking of “between”, the first time I saw Pavement was at Max’s in Petersham (now a pokies venue) supported by Screamfeeder, Crow and indie youngsters Magic Dirt, who played on a stage the size of a handkerchief in the front bar. Wow, what a gig. I was so stoned that I was convinced a guy who was offering me a cheap ticket was about to rip me off.
I entered the venue only to be given a torn-out page from “Jaws” by Pavement’s original drummer Gary Young. I think it’s sad that he’s no longer in the band, because he was the one who created the trademark Pavement slacker drum sound which was later copied by the two replacement drummers (well, I think Bob Nastanovich was actually in the band at the time, acting as Gary Young’s metronome – anyway). But back to between: when Pavement played Oz (1992? 93?) for the first time they were roadtesting songs from what would become their most popular album, the name dropping all over the place Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
I heard “Cut Your Hair” and it sounded like sacrilege: lead singer SM stating up-front “Only a man can do a real falsetto” – fair enough but for me the song was a clanger. “Hit the Plane Down” was much more fun but if truth be told anything pre-Crooked Rain … rows my boat all day long. I don’t know, it all started to be just too cool for school after that.
They covered REM on the flipside to Cut Your Hair – another source of outrage for me, as they even changed the words of “Camera” to suit themselves. Mind you, I guess they were really tapping that IRS years REM vein, both in cover art and lyrical obliquity (word?). Their tribute to REM, “Unseen Power of the White Picket Fence” (I think it appeared on a compilation album) was pretty freaking good, even I have to admit: “And they’re marching through Georgia – G-G-G-G-Georgia”.
Despite this Watery …, for me, marks a high-water mark (arf) in the band’s history. Other EPs of theirs I bought include the slight rip-off Gold Soundz and the grand finale Major Leagues EP which featured covers of “The Killing Moon” and a Fall song, predictably. RIP Pavement and RIP the EP.