Music | CD Revue: Death Cab for Cutie & Pavement Reissues | CD Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Music | CD Revue: Death Cab for Cutie & Pavement Reissues 

Pin It


Pavement Brighten the Corners
Death Cab for Cutie Something About Airplanes

n n

I find it very hard to listen to ’90s music. Give it a couple more years, and maybe that nostalgic itch will strike. Until then, I just can’t look back on the joyless (albeit artistically rich) era fondly. However, recent reissues of seminal ’90s bands may prove that my reservations are unfair and, well, wrong.


Pavement’s reputation precedes itself as being one of the most influential bands of the ’90s but, much to my editor’s great dismay, I’ve never heard any of the band’s albums. Matador’s reissue of the group’s 1997 LP Brighten the Corners is as good of a springboard as any to dive into the Stephen Malkmus-iverse.


“Shady Lane,” the album’s moderate hit, came out at a time when radio bands were becoming increasingly silly (“chickity China and the Chinese chicken,” anyone?), and it would be easy to throw Malkmus & Co. into that category with the single’s rapid-fire delivery and too-clever lyrics [note: editor is clenching her jaw; balling her hands into fists]. But it has aged beautifully, and the “Oh my God” chorus refrain is genuine bitter-sweetness from a typical jokester.


Much of BTC borders on controlled-chaos, which makes it so charming. Malkmus’ voice can shift between monotone sing-speak to spot-on perfect pitch, which almost seems accidental (and clearly an influence on The Dismemberment Plan). When they’re not straight out rocking (“Embassy Row” or “Date w/ Ikea”), the guitar noodling and vocals struggle to decide who is leading, each threatening to leave the other in the dust. When Malkmus is addressing the actual music on bonus track “Cataracts” (“let’s move to the ride cymbal … that sounds the best”), it’s clear that Brighten the Corners is a monument of its time, untouched by countless imitators.


Barsuk’s reissue of Death Cab for Cutie’s 1998 debut, Something About Airplanes, confirms what fans have claimed (often rabidly) since “Soul Meets Body” got huge a couple years ago: Death Cab has been a killer band from the get-go. Vocalist Ben Gibbard’s introspective, hyper-literate lyrics on “Champagne From a Paper Cup” and “Amputations” are good enough to appease anti-emo elitists and still make girls swoon for the awkward, bespectacled singer. Although the album drags on occasion (which is still better compared to the cheesy production of Chris Walla’s later work), it’s hard to beat the payoff of a song like “The Face that Launched 1,000 Shits.”

Pin It

Speaking of...

About The Author

Ryan Bradford

More by Ryan Bradford

  • Guilty Treasures

    Gather up a decade of the best/worst music in one convenient track list.
    • Nov 18, 2009
  • CD Review: Dark Was the Night

    The album's other acts include The Books [fronted by Jose Gonzalez], Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond, Kronos Quartet, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, Grizzly Bear, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, My Morning Jacket, Dave Sitek, Buck 65, The New Pornographers, Yo La Tengo, and others.
    • Feb 26, 2009
  • Music | Grade A: The Meat Puppets stay relevant.

    "I want to come off as pathetic, grasping yet gratified on every level. That’s the kind person I want to come across as.” nFor all intents and purposes, bassist Cris Kirkwood’s parting words over a telephone conversation should be taken with a heavy heart, seeing how his band The Meat Puppets are the reason shows like Behind the Music exist. Back in the ’80s, the semin...
    • Jan 21, 2009
  • More »

Latest in CD Reviews

© 2022 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation