Pavement: The Re-Imagined Discography

As mentioned a few times in this space, one of my favorite time-wasting activities in recent years has been recreating my favorite albums (or creating new ones) to keep them fresh. Efforts by the music industry to prop up a dying CD marketplace by continually reissuing old albums with new bonus material has made it easy to reconstruct the records to make them more personally satisfying, or breathe new life into records I've spun way too many times, by replacing weaker tracks with preferred b-sides and outtakes.

Pavement is the first band where I've reconstructed most of their back-catalog, concluding with last week's reissue of their final album. The band lends itself particularly well to this project; as time went on, I found their records to be still great yet imperfect, while they left some of the more fun material for b-sides and EPs.

The one Pavement album I left intact was their debut, Slanted & Enchanted. As I've previously written (and as expounded upon at length in my book), it was a hugely life-changing album for me, and frankly I wouldn't change a note. So I haven't.

Watery Majestic: The Great Lost Second Album

However, I've created a wholly new, imaginary second album to follow Slanted. Meet Watery Majestic, a surprisingly excellent new Pavement record!

After spending much of 1992 and 1993 touring, the band ending up replacing drummer Gary Young (whose drinking had become an issue) with Steve West. Their only official release prior to West's addition was 1993's 4-song EP Watery Domestic. While a paltry 12 or so minutes, it's pretty great, and "Frontwards" and "Shoot The Singer" in particular are peak Pavement. However, the deluxe editions of Slanted and its 1994 follow-up LP Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain include a wealth of additional material recorded in 1992 and 1993 with Young still on drums; and while there are a lot of noisy, chaotic snippets not necessarily worthy of repeat visits, and some early takes on tunes that would show up on later records, there were still plenty of decent tunes to work with.

To be fair, Pavement made the right call in sticking with the brief Watery EP; most of the other songs are, well, not necessarily great, definitely better suited to b-sides and bonus tracks than as a proper follow-up to the breathtaking and groundbreaking Slanted. That said, curating the highlights still results in a wonderfully fun, deliriously skewed full-length album. Aside from the original 4-track EP, I'd say "All My Friends" and "Circa 1762" (the latter recorded for a BBC Peel Session) are top-tier lost classics, while tunes like "Nothing Ever Happens" and "My First Line" are great fun. And the balance still makes for a cool listen, a nice peek at what might have been.

One place where I took some creative liberties here was digitally editing their twisted tribute to R.E.M., "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," and their shambolic cover of R.E.M.'s "Camera," into a single merged track, which turned out pretty great.

Here's the Spotify playlist version of the imaginary album (without the digital edits I made on my CDR copy):

Crooked Rain, Cooked Brain

I was tempted not to mess with 1994's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It's nearly as great as the debut, and unlike later releases, there weren't a lot of worthy b-sides warranting inclusion on the LP. Still, I've always found that parts of the record (particularly on the back end) drag a bit; the upbeat tracks are just so great that the slower tunes feel like they kill the momentum. So I put together the alternate-universe Crooked Rain, Cooked Brain, which drops one track, shortens a few others, and incorporates two b-sides--"Coolin' By Sound" and "Raft," neither of which is essential, but they're both perfectly solid. I also added "Hands Off The Bayou," one of the better outtakes from the Crooked sessions, and, as a bit of a ringer, the original version of "Grounded," recorded during the same sessions but later re-recorded for 1996's Wowee Zowee.

As with most of these, I resorted to some digital editing to deal with some tracks I find a little too meandering; while I'm fine with original album closers "Hit The Plane Down" and "Fillmore Jive," both are a bit over-long, so I tweaked them and segued them together to make a more satisfactory closing epic.

Here's the Spotify playlist (again, without my personal editing tweaks):

Wowee Zowee Reimagined

I've previously shared this one, and you can read more about it here. Wowee Zowee is the record where I've taken the most liberties, which will probably be deemed blasphemous by purists, but it most lent itself to a reconstruction. The original double album was a sprawling, White Album-like mess of ideas, some more successful than others. Meanwhile, Pavement were incredibly productive around this time, with loads of b-sides and EPs (many a lot more straightforwardly pop than Wowee's experimental tracks). So there was plenty of room to reimagine Wowee as a more immediate, less challenging record that neatly bridged the releases that preceded and followed it.

Brighter Corners

1997's Brighten The Corners was a much more focused record than Wowee, with plenty of great tunes that didn't require as much parsing around the weirdness. Still, there were a few tracks that would generally have me reaching for the "skip" button on the CD player; and, as with Wowee, Pavement continued to relegate some of their catchiest tunes to b-sides. So I swapped out a few tracks, adding in some terrific extras, particularly the wonderful "Harness Your Hopes" (the inexplicably omitted classic that has gained unexpected fame/notoriety in the digital age), "Westie Can Drum," "Winner of the...," and "Roll With The Wind," as well as the alternate, more upbeat version of "Type Slowly," "Slowly Typed." I also did a bit of digital editing ("Embassy Row" is a lot better freed of its draggy intro, IMHO; ditto the extraneous "Shady Lane" outro).

Twilight Terror: Folk Jams & Hand Grenades

I shared this one a few days back. Pavement's 1999 swan song, Terror Twilight, was a bit spotty, and, given its emotional connection with the band's subsequent break-up, always a bit of a downer for me. Plus, there weren't as many outtakes to work with as on the prior two records. Still, there is a more intriguing and satisfying record to be had here as well.

So there you have it... the obsessive output of a guy with way too much time on his hands. Hope you give some of these a shot; maybe you'll like 'em as much as I do. 

I haven't included download links for my personal CDR versions, with the digitally tweaked versions of certain songs, but maybe if there's interest...