| ||Andy, I'm just havin' me some fun. I wish I was as great a writer as you NOW, much less when I was 18 years old. But isn't it odd to think of everyone freaking out on Pavement for nearly a decade? Now, I was only 11 when Slanted & Enchanted came out, and for some reason I remember them being more important to critics throughout the 90's than they were to actual fans. I was just listening to Wowee Zowee on the way to work this morning and sort of came to the conclusion that their influence is much more important than the tunes themselves, of which - let's be honest - they only had a few, most of which were on their first album.|
I don’t usually get dragged into replying to reviewers and critics but this time you’ve suckered me in! It comes with the territory that some comments will be good and some will be bad: it often changes with the review writer’s own relationship to the band (either directly or through the music) and has nothing to do with the author or the book itself. So while Jonathan Safran Foer (writing in Jane) says, “This history of the band is great because it provides lots of information-biography, gossip, music criticism . . .” and Spin magazine says “ [it’s an] obsessively researched, pitch-perfect history”, the same book obviously wasn’t to Mr Unterberger’s tastes.
My first gripe is the constant bemoaning of the book’s length. A quick flick in the book store will show what a great visual feast is contained within the covers and also how much text is there. Sometimes less is more, sometimes it’s better not to pad it out with rock journo mumbo jumbo and gonzo cliché. Slanted & Enchanted lasts 39 minutes and All This Sounds Gas goes on for 25% longer. Which is the better album? I’m sure you can find contradictory examples but my point is already made. The overall package gives excellent value for money and after reading the story you can go back time and again to read the asides, the cuttings and the side-bars. Not many music books offer that.
My self-imposed brief was to produce a book for the fans to read the story, not the blusterous hyperbole that surrounds them in the press (not that I’m pointing fingers here). Do you really think people will buy this book that don’t already have all the Pavement albums? I don’t.
You complained that “more than half of the book is finished by the time Slanted appears at all—more time is spent tracking the band’s background then their actual career as a band.” Well, in fact, 40% of the band’s album and EP material was released up to and including 1992, so I think it’s more than justified in spending such a large portion of the book covering this, especially when that also has to include their formation and backgrounds- something that hasn’t already been covered to death in the music press while their later albums and tours have.
Next up you claim that it “almost completely forgoes content about the actual music, rendering the book passionless and fairly unmoving”. When you say ‘music’ do you mean the sound of it or the making of it?
Here’s just a random example from the book talking about their sound:
“Even if they didn't know it, the music was becoming more straightforward and less hackneyed and ambling, though it still possessed clever lyrical twists and turns. The overall sound was more polished and more accessible, whereas some of the subtleties on Slanted had been buried under a layer of noise.”
“Like other Pavement albums, the ending of Crooked Rain is pretty schizophrenic. The gentle tones of “Heaven is a Truck” switch to the incessant beat and melody of Kannberg’s “Hit The Plane Down.” Here, somewhat cheekily, Kannberg quotes the indie-dance act the Happy Mondays and their worldwide hit single “Step On.” “Fillmore Jive” seals the deal with the musical spectrum being addressed—the street full of punks, the dance faction, and the rockers with their curly locks all getting a mention as Malkmus bids his good-bye to the rock and roll era. A fitting end to a landmark album.”
If you are referring to the making of the music, every major session is addressed, here’s a snippet from the BTC sessions:
“Recording was pretty easy, and everyone played in the same room at the same time. Mark Ibold reckons that about four songs were first takes. "We’d practiced at my house for about a week and a half,” says Steve West, “so we were a band in terms of being prepared for it. Everyone participated like they had never done before—everyone played and got along pretty well. We’d go out to this redneck bar in Kernersville every night afterward and play pool till 2 a.m.””
Earlier examples include
“the punk singles and fanzines came gushing out in an afternoon of noise and abandonment. That said, it was hard to pick out a single noteworthy influence in the mix. It was almost as if the pair had rolled up every underground band of the last two decades into one.
“A notable change from the first EP is the prominence of some electronica in the form of overdubbed, almost Kraftwerk-sounding keyboards. And of course there's more—you guessed it—fuzzy guitars pushing the groove along. “Spizzle Trunk” is a basic punk sprint through one minute and a quarter of thrashing guitars, but with a hint of barroom Jerry Lee Lewis piano buried in the mix to give it that “awry” feeling that Malkmus had spoke of previously. “Recorder Grot” ends side one with a heavier vibe.”
But to be fair you do appreciate parts of the volume (“the book does an excellent job of placing Pavement in a historical context”) though when you claim that the “gushing” liners to the S&E re-issue are worthy (hey, I wrote some of them too!) I would question the average reader’s willingness to want to buy a “gushing” book. I’m a Pavement fan but I think I did a good job of presenting the rough with the smooth.
I never intended to say how good the music sounded, like you said yourself, that’s self explanatory. I wanted to tell the story of the band, which I did, just like the title says. Finally you ask why bother? By the same token, then why bother to write a review? Why bother to do anything? I bothered because it isn’t just doing the same old, same old, in describing the band’s music or comparing it to a potted plant or whatever the latest music journo craze happens to be. This is the story of the band, read it AND listen to the music, like most other people will. But at the end of the day if you don’t like the book, fine. I didn’t like your review either! :)