Pavement - Brighten The Corners : Nicene Creedence Edition

Ian Atherton 28/11/2008

Rating: 4.5/5

Brace yourselves - the fourth instalment in Domino's biennial series of Pavement reissues is every bit as extensive, expansive, exhaustive and exhausting as those covering the band's opening trio of records. A remastered version of the original twelve-track release is complemented by an incredible thirty-two b-sides, compilation tracks, radio sessions and outtakes, all housed in a fancy slipcase alongside a sixty-page book.

You can look elsewhere for an assessment of Brighten The Corner's merits - a slicker, calmer beast than its predecessors, its complex, melancholic melodies and sarcastically arch lyrics seems to repel as many listeners as they attract. Certainly, the record is a very different Pavement from those who emerged five years previously with lo-fi classic Slanted And Enchanted, but few could deny the appeal of Shady Lane's tumbling melodies, Starlings In The Slipstream's expansive sprawl or the tenderly duelling guitars that close Infinite Spark (here reverted back to its original title, Fin).

As with the previous reissues, the bonus material is of an astonishingly high standard, and several of the unreleased tracks must have come close to making it onto the final album - swirling instrumental Beautiful As A Butterfly could have benefited from the addition of vocals and psychedelic nursery rhyme Nigel could perhaps be trimmed, but the lurching Cataracts, which features classic off-kilter Malkmus meandering and a swirling guitar outro, comes fully formed.

The b-sides are stylistically varied, but again feature many tunes which could have slotted into the finished article, including Spiral Stairs' charming Winner Of The (a sonic pointer to his work with Preston School Of Industry) the tubthumper-taunting Westie Can Drum (chorus: "Westie cannot drum"), a rockabilly version of Type Slowly, the hectic Wanna Mess You Around and the beautifully concise Cherry Area.

Of the twelve radio session tracks, two were featured on the Major Leagues EP - a graceful cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's The Killing Moon and a suitably deranged version of The Fall's The Classical (introduced as "an old family favourite"). Also included here is a warped run-through of Faust's It's A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl, alongside an undistorted version of Spiral Stair's much-loved Date With Ikea, a slightly plodding rendition of Fin/Infinite Spark and the legendary Neil Hagerty Meets Jon Spencer In A Non-Alcoholic Bar, whose frenzied vocal contortions just about do justice to the outlandish title.

Interestingly, a handful of tracks point towards the creative cul-de-sac encountered during the band's final sessions - the original version of The Hexx, which appeared at the back end of Terror Twilight, unfolds itself across seven minutes, while discordant singalong Roll With The Wind and the wonderfulHarness Your Hopes(with its classic taunt "Show me a word that rhymes with Pavement and I will kill your parents and roast them on a spit") were apparently recorded and mixed during the BTC sessions before finding their home on the b-side to Carrot Rope (in the UK) and Spit On A Stranger (in the US) a couple of years later.

With all these highlights plus an additional smattering of live and unreleased odds and ends, this instalment of the series yet again works as a landmark example of how properly assembled reissues can be much more than a standard money-grabbing exercise, and also underlines just how prolific, consistent and creative Pavement were across their ten-year existence. Roll on 2010's Terror Twilight retrospective.