avid Pajo’s been pissing around for a good few years now. After his time in Slint, he’s wandered about in the post-rock landscape dilly-dallying with this and that act (Tortoise, Stereolab, and Palace Brothers), adding a little something here and a quick texture there. His so-so solo work under increasingly stupid names (M, Aerial M and Papa M) has proved generally unsatisfactory when weighed against reasonable expectations and even his input into Zwan going beyond a few ringing notes was debatable. So, you know, pardon me if I was suspicious about Pajo.
As part of the unassuming quartet that reinvented rock for shy guitarists the world over, it’s probably not that great a surprise that one of the primary influences here appears to be Simon and Garfunkel (most obviously on the double tracked vocal of “Ten More Days”). While Pajo doesn’t quite have the soft rounded vocals of Simon or Garfunkel, he sings with a shy and broken voice (which he sometimes filters through effects or far-away mics) that has an odd softness of its own. His recent concentration on acoustic instrumentation, leaving behind his swirling slower electric style, gives Pajo a stripped open earthy sound despite the electronic percussive tinkerings. There has been a fairly big deal made of the ‘unusual’ recording process for the LP—it was all done on some cheapo software that Pajo got free with his new laptop. This PR line makes a valid point (but in 2005, a very obvious one) that intimacy doesn’t necessarily have to come from an analogue recording and the sound of Pajo makes it very much a one-on-one listening experience.
Combining such personal material with nods to some definitive touchstones of songwriting like Dylan (“High Lonesome Moan”), Buffalo Springfield, and Brian Wilson, Pajo crafts an up-close and personal sound world of distant AM radio under duvet songs. Special mention should go to the country-folk of “Manson Twins” with its subtle unobtrusive strings and piano, which may just be a simple love song on paper, but whose little touches lift it quite beyond that. A sparkling hi-hat percussion line, lyrical ‘little bird’ metaphors of “loveless love,” and an endgame of girls laughing make it an aural delight.
Brian Wilson visits in the form of lyrical simplicity with “Baby Please Come Home,” which unites an electronic beat, country guitar, and submerged vocals with a fuzzy acoustic sound. Pajo’s arrangements have an ingenious childlike simplicity to them—sticking to familiar forms, but frequently bringing descending chords and slippery noises into the frame. That’s because Pajo likes to keep us, like with the same room guitar of “War Is Dead,” which, in another world, could’ve been a slow rock & roll stomper with its “hitch a ride on a Saturday night” lyrics and structure.
Closing track, “Francie,” has a similar atmosphere to Slint’s finest hour “Good Morning Captain” minus the sharded menace. A fine Badalemnti / Lynch bass part bobs on luminous sounds visible through water. It’s only towards its end that the mood alters with some drowned guitar sounds (the only part of the LP that matches the dark lonely mood of the black and white cover art of a deserted dawn beach). On the whole Pajo is a positive listening experience, but this closing shift in disposition is an odd way to bow out, leaving the album on an interesting, if confusing, note.
But all in all, Pajo brings the goods. Building on his unassuming alternative icon status, this great debut (under his own name) is sure to bring him that bit nearer to the awareness of the mainstream.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2005-06-28