Rumors have been flying for months that Pavement’s Terror Twilight (Matador), which hits the shelves Tuesday, is to be the band’s swan song. If that’s true, they’re going out with more of a whimper than a bang—but even Pavement’s whimpering beats a lot of other people’s banging. The new album builds on the direct pop approach of 1997’s superb Brighten the Corners. It was produced by Nigel Godrich, knob twirler of the moment thanks to recent work for Radiohead and Beck, and he’s the first ever to put some sheen on Pavement’s ragged jangle: it’s still not exactly slick, but the band’s never sounded cleaner or fuller. Yet while tunes like “Spit on a Stranger,” “Major Leagues,” and ” . . . And Carrot Rope” are as catchy as anything Stephen Malkmus has ever penned, the instrumental passage in the middle of “You Are a Light” sounds like he and Scott Kannberg were struck with stage fright when it came time to lay down guitar solos, and “Ann Don’t Cry” just sounds unfinished—which no longer seems to be an intentional part of the aesthetic. The wordplay’s not quite up to par either—”Well pardon my birth, I just slipped out,” from “Folk Jam,” seems to be an ungentlemanly swipe of “I wasn’t born so much as I fell out” from the Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket.” And when Malkmus sings “I see the sunshine in your eyes,” from “Spit on a Stranger,” the by-now reflexive search for irony turns up nil. Pavement’s charming nonchalance seems to have morphed into real boredom and laziness—but fortunately the golden boys can make pretty good records even in their sleep. Thursday, June 10, 9 PM, and next Friday, June 11, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marcus Roth.