Pavement: Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition

Eleven years on, Pavement's penultimate long-player still sounds like the product of two inevitable, related factors: the onset of maturity and a heightened sense of professionalism. So rough edges are missing in action, the pacing is generally Sunday-drive slow and laconic front man Stephen Malkmus muses about God, slaved-over wedding invites and whether or not Geddy Lee of Rush shrieks like a gelding in casual conversation. Sterling, non-sequitur mosaics make nice with overly patient songcraft, typing in molasses code. But Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition demonstrates that while Pavement's A-sides were sleepwalking though sunny pastures, its (then) B- and C-sides brought the freewheeling ruckus: "Harness Your Hopes" is a succinct, catchy distillation of codependent neediness; the instrumental "Beautiful as a Butterfly" spins the hook from "Date with IKEA" into something transcendent; off-the-cuff gem "Destroy Mater Dei" makes a snarky case for dropping out of society. Like 2004's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain reissue, all the fixins for another "lost" Pavement album are here, but the band didn't iron its extras into ready-for-prime-time cuts this time: The vocals on über-rarities "Nigel" and "Cataracts" are mumbled and muted almost to the point of incoherency, though Malkmus's performance instructions to his bandmates are — fascinatingly — perfectly audible. Yet Nicene Creedence's biggest gamble lies in its compilers' decision to include so many extras issued close to the release of 1999 swan song Terror Twilight. When it comes time for that disc's deluxe treatment in 2010, what'll be left?

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Ray Cummings