Pavement – Westing (By Musket And Sextant)

Westing (By Musket And Sextant) (1993)

B-

1. You’re Killing Me 2. Box Elder 3. Maybe Maybe 4. She Believes 5. Price Yeah! 6. Forklift 7. Spizzle Trunk 8. Recorder Grot 9. Internal K-Dart 10. Perfect Depth 11. Recorder Grot (Rally) 12. Heckler Spray 13. From Now On 14. Angel Carver Blues/Mellow Jazz Docent 15. Drive-By Fader 16. Debris Slide 17. Home 18. Krell Vid-User 19. Summer Babe 20. Mercy Snack: The Laundromat 21. Baptist Blacktick 22. My First Mine 23. Radio

 

A compilation of the band’s pre-Slanted And Enchanted EPs, singles and stray compilation tracks that make me say, “So, this is lo-fi.” Yup, I guess there was a time when Pavement valued style over substance, and that style involved a lot of ugly, hissy noises with vocals you could barely hear. But that time didn’t last very long, fortunately, and even the most dire-sounding stuff here never demonstrates incompetence or a lack of promise. It’s just… ugly, I guess.

You know how Guided By Voices used to do a lot of 90-second songs that featured a lot of ugly dicking around but they had the most wonderfulest melodies in the whole world so it was OK? You know that, right? Well, that’s sort of how Malkmus and Spiral Stairs originally approached Pavement – just without the melodies. I never thought I’d have to charge Steve with coming up short in the melody department, but on the first half of this thing, his vocals are pushed so far back in the mix that anything he’s doing melody-wise is basically a non-factor. So what are we left with? Drums (usually), and two guitars—typically, one clean and strummy, one fuzzily distorted beyond recognition—playing chord sequences. Now, many of these chord sequences sound like they could one day blossom into good songs—“Heckler Spray,” for instance, sounds like it could’ve been one hell of an awesome Pavement rocker if it had any singing on it at all—but as is, they’re just chord sequences. And ugly annoying doinky noises. But it’s obvious this was an aesthetic choice rather than an indication that they weren’t capable of better things, even in their earliest incarnation, as evidenced by the fact that track 2 on this doohicky is the early indie rock classic “Box Elder,” which features not only an extremely catchy chord sequence, but also an extremely catchy vocal melody! Amazing what you can accomplish when you put those two together. Sort of like chocolate and peanut butter, or Crown Russe vodka and horny freshman girls.

The proceedings pick up significantly right around the halfway mark, as the ratio of actual songs to lo-fi fuckery shifts positively. This results in such winners as “Mellow Jazz Docent” and especially “Debris Slide,” which has one of the catchiest choruses Pavement ever did! It’s totally stuck in my head right now! Ba ba ba da ba! That’s how it goes! You should listen to it! “Summer Babe” is also here in its original single incarnation, which is the same version as on Slanted And Enchanted but with a slightly different mix. Overall, there are a few things on Westing you need to hear if you’re a Pavement fan, and if you’re a real lo-fi aficionado, then dig in. But if you’re like me and you come to Pavement for the pop songs, then feel free to lay on the skip button.



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