1995 – Matador
Wowee Zowee, the third studio album by the crowned princes of the nineties slacker scene Pavement, is a slowly drifting, dreamlike journey through the hazy world of not really caring all that much. Genres from all over the place fall into the melting pot on this record and come out at the end with a distinct sound that managed to capture the imaginations of disaffected teens the world over.
This being said, Wowee Zowee really isn’t all that great an album. There’s some great stuff on here, but on the whole I was actually rather underwhelmed. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it per se, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a shining gem of the musical form either.
Starting out with the basic folk-pop sounds of We Dance I found myself beginning to wish for something that actually grabbed my attention. I mean, the track is nice enough with its mild catchy melody, but it really didn’t end up going anywhere and the lyrics, picked seemingly at random in order to create a vaguely depressing feel, were just kind of annoying. This sound continues on and on throughout most of the rest of the record with tracks like Grounded and Motion Suggests, and, while there is nothing particularly the matter with these cuts, I just found myself getting more than a little bored at points. I mean, for all their anti-establishment, against-the –mainstream pretentiousness the band, on these tracks, ended up producing nothing more than a load of inoffensive slacker-pop. I guess I just wanted something more to sink my teeth into.
Luckily with tracks like Rattled By The Rush I was given the substance of content I was craving. The unconventional noise and strong guitar lines grabbed me and made me want to listen further, not to mention the wonderfully laid-back instrumentation which sounds like the band don’t really care that much if they mess up and was a real treat to hear.
Tracks like these, I think, are where this record’s strength really lies; in uncaring fun that doesn’t worry about how edgy or nonconformist it is. Cuts like Serpentine Pad and Half A Canyon just exemplify this great character of the group in the way in which they come across as unafraid to fall back on the traditions of bare-bones rock and roll, but are also not scared off by flipping the bird to whatever easy-listening sell-outs that might be snooping around.
Unfortunately, however, these truly exciting tracks don’t form the bulk of the album and so much of it is just padded out with inconsequential filler tracks like Blackout and At & T. I guess some of the tracks do hold a little interest such as with Father To A Sister Of Thought’s atmospheric country feel, but on the whole they just don’t really stand-out or capture the imagination very much at all. I guess what it really comes down to is the fact that eighteen tracks is just far too long for this record and it could have benefitted greatly from the advice of a stern editor.
As it stands though, my verdict is that Wowee Zowee is firmly placed into the category of “sure, it’s okay”. There’s not much on here to get particularly excited about, but, at the same time, I don’t think there’s any tracks that are likely to turn anybody off Pavement for the rest of their lives. It really is just a musical embodiment of the term “mediocrity”.
One of the better tracks from 1995’s ‘Wowee Zowee’
- Pavement: Perfect Sound Forever (idontknowhowtousefreedom.wordpress.com)
- Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 Recap (littlebylisten.com)