Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pavement - Wowee Zowee


My initial reaction to this album - to dismiss it as the shoegazer version of boy music - was abruptly changed this morning, when I listened to it for the first time in my car. I'd previously given it a go at home, while other things were going on, and hadn't had the time to really pay attention. And it's a lot better than I thought. I can tell you it's especially good cranked up to 11 at 4.30 am on the way to work for the fourth early shift in a row. Vibrated my car's windows, yo. Caused some head-banging and steering-wheel drums. I think some early-morning delivery drivers in trucks were bemused at the sight of a small middle aged lady rockin' out in a hatchback.

That initial reaction's not so surprising, come to think of it. When the worldwide phenomenon that was Nirvana broke, I officially considered myself "old" for a long time - because I simply didn't get it. It took me about six months to a year before I began to appreciate the grunge sound, which I think I can thank Helmet for. I caught them live at a music festival around the time of Betty and thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, I was there to see Iggy Pop, so I guess my "rawk" gene had been engaged for the day.

So, Wowee Zowee. While described as "lo-fi", I can actually hear what's being sung most of the time. There are even country elements in it, which made me smile. The lyrics are intelligent and occasionally witty. Given all this, I might give the rest of Pavement's albums in our collection a go. A girl's gotta have something to get her heart started on those early mornings. I wonder if YourZ wants to catch them on the reunion tour?

VERDICT: TURN IT UP (long hair optional for headbanging)


I was once in an indie band in a small city in the western world. We rehearsed a lot, wrote a lot and got heaps of gigs. In my eyes, the pinnacle of our career was supporting Pavement when they toured. It was around the time of Slanted And Enchanted, their now-seminal album of articulate lo-fi art-rock. Our indie cred couldn't have been higher.

We had supported many good bands before, names I could say and you, dear reader, would recognise. But Pavement were in a league of their own. Apart from being nice blokes (and that lead singer, Steve Malkmus, was a bit of an indie poster boy and made all the girls swoon) they were also responsible for an album of such standing it's still talked about today. To say we were a little awed would be an understatement. I remember standing to one side of the stage and watching them perform and thinking to myself 'I just shared a stage with these guys'. Just thinking about it gives me a bit of a thrill. I still have a poster of that gig - it's one of my prized possessions.

But this isn't why I own this album. I own it because it's good music. Even after 14 years, it still sounds urgent, vibrant and alive. And weirdly good. But then this band have never been normal and this has always been part of their appeal.

At the gig I played all those years ago, the drummer at the time, Gary Young, handed out Real Estate pamphlets to everyone as they came into the venue. In the middle of the set, when his drumming duties were minimal, he lay on the stage and rode an air bicycle and then did some star jumps. We were so enchanted by the silliness we thought it was cool. Apparently the band didn't because not long after this tour, Gary was sacked and replaced.

The new drummer, while not the character Young was, brought better skills and tightened up Pavement's often shambolic sound. I preferred the 'Gary' version only because it gave the music a feeling that it could all collapse in a feedback-laden heap. But anyway...

Wowee Zowee has a veritable smorgasbord of flavours, with something to please even the most difficult listening palate (if you only like metal or hard rock then you're shit outta luck, I'm afraid). I forgot how good this album was, usually satisfying my urge to hear this band with Slanted and Enchanted. This is something I'm going to have to change, if only to refresh my memory.


For more information:

In our collection we also have Slanted & Enchanted, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Terror Twilight, Brighten The Corners and Slanted & Enchanted - Luxe & Redux (Tenth Anniversary Edition)

No comments:

Post a Comment