I’d like to thank many people for releasing Pavement’s brilliant Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in 1994. First, thanks to the band, mostly for writing and recording it. Next, to the producers and the engineers, particularly Mark “Walleye” Venezia, who let the band borrow a bunch of random vintage gear from a midtown-Manhattan music store during recording. But most of all, to the dudes at Matador, who set the album’s original release date.
What I mean is this: For the album to have its ten-year anniversary in the fall of 2004, and thus demand a glorious reissue, is timing beyond impeccable. Like an aged scholar returning to his alma mater to speak at the graduation of a class of immature nobodies, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain has returned to teach the Class of ’04 a lesson.
Despite that Pavement was a much-hyped band in their day, no year in hype compared to 2004 — last year loved hype like Steven Seagal loves kicking ass. I stand by the idea that pop music is an integral part of pop culture that shapes society in many cases. But it’s easy to see that few rock bands in 2004 broke boundaries, musical or cultural, despite critics handing out barrels of unnecessary praise to too many over-hyped bands. Ten years from now, who will call Blueberry Boat or that Franz Ferdinand album “classic”? Those who do will probably be able to fit collectively in the back of a station wagon.
Here at this beautiful commencement ceremony, Stephen Malkmus and Company has come to teach us a lesson in longevity. Of course it takes more albums than just this one to prove the band’s longevity, but this one is the best example of what makes Pavement near immortal. The balance the band strikes between humor and raw emotion, between Ziploc tightness and staggering improvisation, is what makes Crooked Rain such a glorious statement on the importance of dynamics.
Sonically, the album can go from an average four-piece rock sound to twelve-guitar overdubbing madness in seconds. Lyrically, there are equal parts “screwing myself with my hand” and subtly melancholy utterances of “I need to sleep.” If a single, magical volume knob controlled the overall dynamic and contour of the album, Pavement would be twiddling it constantly.
This reissue, like Matador’s reissue in 2002 of the band’s 1992 debut, Slanted and Enchanted, includes a miraculous number of extra goodies. L.A.’s Desert Origins has forty-nine tracks (the original had twelve), a handful of recording sessions with original drummer Gary Young (Young left the band in 1993), a set of Peel Sessions that include a particularly tear-jerking rendition of Wowee Zowee‘s “Grounded,” two versions of “Pueblo,” two versions of “Rug Rat,” a hilariously bad version of “5-4 = Unity” with (gasp!) vocals, several dozen other bonus tracks that are mostly amazing, and a beautiful 63-page booklet that perpetually (so far) smells like new CD.
The decade cushion since Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain‘s original release has proven, if nothing else, that Pavement has fully transcended the hype and achieved canonization. Sure, longevity may eventually fall upon some of 2004’s wide-eyed fresh starts, but this reissue reminds us to watch those kids with careful eyes and to only give credit where it’s due. At least compared to 1994, my hopes aren’t high for 2004’s ten-year reunion.