With its most recent album, Brighten the Corners (Matador/Capitol), Pavement has settled gracefully into normalcy, making musical peace with its middle-class roots. Sometimes the intersecting guitar lines of Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg hark back to the jagged architecture of previous efforts, and the band’s hooks remain delightfully off-kilter. But the new album is Pavement’s most focused, straight-ahead outing—not surprising, given that it’s the first on which all of its members worked together for an extended period. While some might fault the record’s lack of left-field flourishes, Brighten the Corners has in its favor the most consistent batch of tunes the band’s delivered since Slanted and Enchanted. Malkmus’s lyrics are still murky, but his wordplay, even in his stream-of-consciousness rants, has never been as sharp. “Embassy Row” examines international diplomacy, but it also encapsulates his current attitude toward the politics of indie rock: “I’m sick of being misread by men in dashikis and their leftist weeklies / The colonized wrath / Their shining new path.” In a recent interview he even claimed, “I’m more into what my parents are doing,” and indeed “We Are Underused” borrows its interminable ending from a boomer anthem, “Hey Jude.” Pavement’s Chicago performances earlier this year were as nonchalant as ever, but they weren’t sloppy by any means. The brazenly horrible Shudder to Think opens both shows. Thursday, May 1, 7 and 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by James Crump – RSP.