Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted

PAVEMENT ARE ice cool. 'Slanted And Enchanted', their first proper release in the UK - following a ten-inch and two singles in the States - is a marvellous piece of lazy rock'n'roll that does for the current American new wave what Teenage Fanclub's 'A Catholic Education' did for British guitar music.

The cool is close to perfection: bearing in mind there's two sorts of cool - the ghastly, tacky, would-be cool of slash'n'burn, and the gorgeous recalcitrant cool of Pavement. There are traces of The Fall's spiky-edged pop - Mark E Smith's dismissive-but-urgent approach - plus references to the Pixies, Sonic Youth... warped and distorted and reinvented.

Pavement themselves are all over the place. Two of them live in New York, one lives on the West Coast, they probably never rehearse and seldom gig. Almost unintentionally they've forged one of the most refreshing American noises for ages. 'Slanted And Enchanted' is a further testimony that underground Stateside music is going through several changes. Following Superchunk's 'No Pocky For Kitty' LP - with its power-chorus rock - at the start of the year, Pavement have taken the more obscure, arty-rock angle and made it potentially massive.

They've managed to keep the jagged edges, while toying with a pop sensibility - somewhere between TFC and Gang Of Four. They play around with your perceptions of tension and insecurity. But at the same time project a neat, loose, look-at-stars-and-feel-very-small attitude that is ultimately uplifting.

Side One starts with the lost jewel 'Summer Babe' - reviewed in On back in January - one of the hard-to-get American seven-inches, which slopes along before exploding in anguish over the last 30 seconds. Elsewhere they hit Fall territory again (circa 'Grotesque After The Gram'/'Slates') with 'Conduit' opening with Smith-style ranting.

The great 'Mr Y' is like ''Debaser'-meets-'Bingo Master's Breakout' with a strangely endearing 'War Of The Worlds' chorus... and 'Two States' is a rowdy, spindly shout-a-long.

Pavement, while being ripped and torn, are tantalisingly emotive. The spareness in some tracks puts you on edge, contrasted by the smoother, brick-wall mournfulness of songs like 'Perfume' (benefiting from a dual-vocal outburst which takes them to new heights of frustration).

If they lose it anywhere, it's where they fall into indulgent overdrive, and end up sounding like a jerky Camper Van Beethoven. But, for all the minor hiccups, 'Slanted And Enchanted' - with its very English undertones - is still a major achievement.

Don't step on the cracks.


Steve Lamacq