Welcome to an alternate universe, one in which Pavement's critically applauded debut 'Slanted and Enchanted' didn't happen in 1992. Instead, imagine that Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kannberg and Gary Young had recorded an entirely different set of songs and released them on the very same week as The Beastie Boys' 'Check Your Head'. 'The Secret History, Vol. 1' is a glimpse into that world. It's a vision we've seen before, of course, with many of the thirty tracks presented here previously turning up on the 2002 'Luxe and Reduxe' release of 'Slanted and Enchanted'. However, when presented in isolation and curated in a different way, rather than simply being bonus content, these songs form something more important than simply a curio to their parent album. They are a real alternative to that record, fuelled by the same youthful optimism and counter-culture bravado; this really is a parallel view of 1992.
Domino have boldly stated that this is the first in a series of 5 accompanying albums for Pavement's pre-existing studio output. It's an interesting concept that, judging by the strength of this material, will pay off. The big question really remains though: if 'Slanted and Enchanted' is commonly understood to have been one of the most influential albums of the nineties, how would 'Secret History' have fared in its place? The thirty songs are split pretty evenly between studio outtakes, b-sides, and Peel Sessions on the one hand, and then a live show from Brixton. As you'd expect, the live recording is where the majority of crossover with 'Slanted and Enchanted' can be found. The show is great for its energetic live reading of material that had gained cult status since its recording. It would make a worthy live record on its own and essentially inhabits its own disc on this release.
It's those preceding songs that offer the alternative to 'Slanted and Enchanted', though; bar the 7" version of 'Summer Babe' and a couple of versions of 'Here' this is a completely different Pavement record. I'd also contest that if the band's debut had included brooding slacker anthem 'So Stark (You're A Skyscraper)' or The Pixies-esque and incendiary 'Baptist Blacktick' it would have been just as influential. There's very little here that feels substandard or below par. In fact, 'Nothing Ever Happens' suggests a slightly more polished and less confrontational sound that Malkmus and his band could have chosen to explore. A personal highlight is 'Circa 1762' which balances the noise and feedback with an imaginative lyric that stands amongst the best of Pavement's output.
Continue reading: Pavement - The Secret History, Vol. 1 Album Review
Do Pavement need an introduction? It's hard to say. If you grew up the '90s, with your canvas bag slung down by your knees, trudging to school with a wide-open copy of Melody Maker blocking your view of the oncoming traffic, shouting "I'm just a boy with a new haircut" across the classroom and saving your lunch money to buy a limited "7 of 'Rattled by the Rush' then. I guess not.
Continue reading: Pavement, Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement Album Review