I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve really enjoyed Matador’s Pavement reissue series. To this point the first 3 Pavement records have been re-released with loads of extras and some fancy packaging. Their dense and mysterious debut Slanted and Enchanted was first, offering plenty of incredible extra songs from the era that many would argue they never topped. The third album, the sprawling and eclectic Wowee Zowee, was released this past Fall. It was another tremendous effort by Matador, giving fans plenty of hard to find b-sides and EP tracks, as well as never-before-heard live versions of many songs.
Best of all though is Pavements’s second album, the sure-fire classic, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. This is quite simply one of my favorite records of all time. By the time of its release in 1994 Nirvana had pushed open radio’s door for alternative bands, and Pavement found themselves on the brink of a major commercial success. Crooked Rain is a sharper, more focused collection of songs from a band that was anything but sharp and focused. “Cut Your Hair” was a staple of alternative radio at the time, as well as late-night MTV, and the band was suddenly playing to larger audiences than ever before.
Among the unreleased songs from the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain sessions is one called “All My Friends”. It was recorded in early 1993 at Louder Than You Think studios in Stockton, CA., and features original wild man drummer Gary Young. Starting off with a deep breath from lead singer Stephen Malkmus before bursting into an instantly catchy groove, the song ranks as one of Pavement’s finest ever recordings. Full of memorable Malkmus one-liners (“she’s got a neck like a Saturday paper, you read it fast before a Sunday mass”) and feedback fueled guitar blasts, the song catapults along for its first 2 minutes before settling into its relaxed middle third. The band dawdles into a lazy drawl, led by a lonesome organ sound, and Malkmus sings as if trapped in slow-motion. Before you know it though the band comes back at full force, all pistons firing, with Malkmus yelling out indecipherably (is he saying ‘why you sad? Or ‘wasteland‘? or something else altogether?). Finally the propulsive guitars and renegade drums begin to crumble, and Malkmus sing-speaks some clear phrases (“homeland…divorce…countries..”) over a suddenly spooky organ line. It’s a glorious and completely sloppy epic song, delivered in the nonchalant genius that Pavement was notorious for.
So, how did this song get overlooked when recording resumed later in the year? No idea! Nothing against Spiral Stairs, but “Hit the Plane Down” is far below the rest of the songs quality-wise. Replace it with “All My Friends” and you have an album that can stand up to any in the rock canon. Here, take a look:
Elevate Me Later
Cut Your Hair
MP3 - All My Friends
Heaven Is A Truck
What you have now is an album that was already one of the best of the 90’s becoming that much better. “All My Friends” has every element that a classic Pavement song need possess, and kicking off Side 2 on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, it finally gets the attention it deserves.