Hey folks, haven't been keeping as up to speed with my interneting or even my musical purchases, but I had a flurry of a few purchases just there and a band close to my heart came up: Pavement and the Wowee Zowee 10th Anniversary Reissue. I figured it's as good a time as any to start contributing to the very sexy and entertaining sexy entertainment reviews and stuff that are going on here at thoughts etcetera.
Wowee Zowee has always been something of a bogie album for Pavement, receiving lukewarm responses from many fans and critics as an album where the lacksadaisical attitude of Pavement became more offputting than charming. The poor initial response to the album is a fact which seems to be acknowledged by the band itself, given the half-hearted liner notes by Stephen Malkmus and the no-hearted liner notes by the absent Scott Kannsberg, but many fans now consider this to be one of the most essential recordings Pavement have ever made.
In and of itself it is worth having as a study of a band who may have lost their way trying to find their voice for a third time. To some however, where before the songs sounded wild and seemed to be heading to exciting new territory, the songs on WZ seem listless and wandering in no particular direction. Ultimately, though frustrating, it is an album with several songs which should be part of the collection of any fan of indie guitar music, two of which are the anthemic Father to a Sister of Thought and my personal faourite song of any Pavement release, Grounded.
As for what the reissue brings to the table, the artwork and liner notes feel thrown together, and not in the traditionally sloppy but brilliant Pavement fashion. It does do the average Pavement fan the courtesy of adding several rarities such as I Love Perth and Mussle Rock, but in comparison to the reissues of Crooked Rain and Slanted and enchanted this seems like a poor effort. There are three versions of Easily Fooled for instance, none of which is as well recorded as the version included on the Crooked Rain reissue (called the Sutcliffe Catering Song) and the second album only has four songs worth adding to your collection in Sensitive Euro Man, Stray Fire, No More Kings and Painted Soldiers. To a non fan I would suggest the far superior Slanted and Enchanted or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain reissues. They are a better starting point to explore Pavement's slack majesty, given that they give a clearer picture of the where the band was at the time of each album, as well as having a far better selection of tunes. One to consider getting but maybe wait til you don't really have anything else to spend your cash on...
DISCLAIMER:This album was bought under a cloud of multiple bad associations (the first time I listened to it was on the bus home to my grandfather's funeral was one thing) so if you believe in the power of association in forming your opinions on the music you listen to, bear in mind that my review was coloured fairly negatively.
To share one last little bit, here's two songs which explain why Pavement worked so well as a band. The first, Mussle Rock (is a Horse in Transition) can be described as the typical Spiral Stairs song, gorgeous hook, sloppy guitar, frail voice crooning wounded lyrics but catchy as hell. The second can be described as the typical Stephen Malkmus tune, crossword clue lyrics, psychedelic pop guitar and an unabashedly intellectual slant (that's right Declan, I'm going all pitchfork on this review). Put them together and you get the reason for tunes as brilliant as Shadey Lane and Grounded.
Mussle Rock (is a Horse in Transition) - Pavement
Give It A Day - Pavement
POST SCRIPT: I really do love the original album and the reissue adds in some great tunes, so get your hands on it if you can. Even if only because it'd be a lot cheaper than trying to hunt down all the b-sides and BBC sessions.