Release Date: Aug 11, 2015
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise Pop
In some ways, The Secret History (Volume One), seems a little unnecessary. The bulk of the B-sides and rarities (all from the Slanted and Enchanted era of the band) on the new compilation are not particularly “rare” at all – most are easily accessible online, or “alternate mixes” of well-known classics. However, Pavement’s loose ends were always key to their appeal, and with no new music or live appearances seeming particularly likely at this point, five years on from their reunion and release of best-of compilation Quarantine the Past, a partial tying-up of these loose ends seems like an appropriate way to sate the hunger of their fiercely loyal legions of fans.
The Secret History, Volume 1 is a pretty strange rerelease, even by Pavement standards. Comprising a string of outtakes from the indie icons' debut album, plus a couple of Peel sessions and a live set from 1992, it's a good chunk of classic Pavement fare. The tracks are already familiar to fans that cherish the Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe and Redux set released over a decade ago, where these cuts are already available.
Nearly a quarter-century after it was released, Pavement's 1992 debut, Slanted and Enchanted, is still arguably the greatest indie-rock LP of all time — an offhand masterwork of magic-hour guitar static, thrift-shop melodic charm and singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus' poker-faced romanticism. Pavement were on an amazing run at the time, keeping their ravenous fans fed with singles, EPs and much-bootlegged radio sessions. This vinyl-only rarities set is the best repackaging that material has received.
Pavement could have and should have been bigger on MTV circa 1994. "Cut Your Hair" felt like that was the bullet that barely missed its mark. Nonetheless, their cult following has kept them alive as well as so many emo/indie bands nowadays that continue to spread the abrasive alt-rock magic Pavement and many others like them carved out. The Secret History, Vol.
The title claims this 2015 vinyl-only collection tells a "Secret History" but it's a tale that's been told in daylight, through B-sides and EPs and, of course, the 2002 Luxe & Reduxe double-disc deluxe reissue of Slanted & Enchanted. Secret History, Vol. 1 spins off many, but not all, of the bonus tracks from that release into a double-vinyl set, leaving behind such official releases as the Watery, Domestic EP bus showcasing S&E outtakes, two Peel sessions, and the entirety of a cracking 13-song concert at the Brixton Academy in London on December 14, 1992.
I discovered Pavement the same year they broke up. It was a cruel twist of fate made possible by the advent of a file-sharing service called Napster, which debuted in 1999 and instantly replaced mail-order distros as my primary means of finding and collecting new music. Sending away for a CD or cassette was a small leap of faith that required money and patience — two things most young teenagers tend to lack.
Matador Records would really like to brighten the corners right now, as they’ve clearly painted themselves into one. Starting in 2002, the label began reissuing Pavement’s albums in the most spectacular of fashions. Each LP was given a full-blown double-disc treatment, where literally every single one-off, demo, EP, and rarity was put into place, given updated art, thorough liner notes, and just about every possible add-on one could imagine for a reissue outside of an added DVD documentary that highlights the creation of each full-length.
Pavement haven’t released a proper album since Terror Twilight in 1999, but the industry around the band has consistently reminded you of their importance with a variety of compilations, live documents, and reissues. This was aided in part by the group’s reunion in 2010. The collection coinciding with that reunion was the 23-song compilation Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement (which came out in both regular and Record Store Day editions).
Ahhh, the industry. That dark spectre which commodifies the work of our favourite artists and makes hypocrites of too many of us. Even in 2015, it’s still clinging desperately to its status as a necessary evil purely because it still possesses its market, albeit an increasingly jaded one. Each year when the Record Store Day product list is announced, we see Twitter become an ocean of resigned sighs at the slew of repackaged old records dominating the ranks.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In notes accompanying the release of Pavement's The Secret History, Vol. 1, founding band member Spiral Stairs remembers the simple conditions that gave rise to the group's first album, Slanted and Enchanted.
Pavement’s debut album, 1992’s Slanted And Enchanted, is still revered by fans of “alternative US rock”, presenting as it does a rougher, younger version of a band that would go on to harness melodies with ease and find themselves idolised by fans. But it only represented a small percentage of the songs in their arsenal at the time, as this largely “first time on vinyl” comp proves. The format is the selling point here, with each of the 30 “rare” tracks having already been available as bonus additions on 2002’s deluxe edition of Slanted And Enchanted.