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Rhythm & Views

Pavement

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This expanded re-release contains all the angularity and arch wordplay we expect from (arguably) the best American band of the 1990s, starting with its own subtitle. Blending a medieval credo of Christian faith (which emphasizes belief in the Holy Spirit) with late-'60s roots-rockers CCR, Nicene Creedence reminds us that Pavement was always a band steeped in classic Americana, but funneled through a metaphysical playfulness whose reach extended far, without ever exceeding its grasp.

For me, Pavement's sound has always unaccountably conjured images of landscapes, especially the sprawling, succulent plains and deserts of the American West. That quality deeply suffuses Brighten the Corners, from the anthemic mournfulness of "We Are Underused" to the woodwind-tinged but ferocious psychedelia of "Transport Is Arranged." The collected additional tracks expand and extend this tone: The earnest, show-offy lyricism of "Harness Your Hopes" and the shambling snarl of "Westie Can Drum" are the best examples.

Admittedly, part of the appeal of a re-release is its practicality: It gathers everything together in one place and gives us more to boot (Peel sessions, live recordings, alternate versions). Of the unreleased stuff, the sparkling unedited versions of "And Then (The Hexx)"--intended to have been the original album's opening track--and "Birds in the Majic Industry" (now with vocals!) stand out.

The album really does capture the holiness of Pavement's spirit, and God bless Malkmus and co. for delivering some of the best albums of the last decade.

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