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Pavement's Wowee Zowee (33 1/3) Paperback – 3 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (3 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826429572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826429575
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 1.1 x 16.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 395,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Charles puts himself in the center of the bookwe read about his aimless college years in Michigan and his discovery of Pavement, whose songs initially seem half hearted, even bratty, but actually contain an undertow of emotion that's hard to articulate. Charles' writing is the same way. He succinctly captures the flavor of being in one's late teens and early 20s without going into unnecessary detail. Finishing school, he undergoes that arduous, interminable crisis of figuring out what to do with life, discovering that one of the only things that still makes sense is Pavement. Charles returns to the band time and again, the music weaving a thread through his life. --The Portland Mercury

About the Author

Bryan Charles is the author of the novel Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim R. on 13 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good book that I enjoyed reading. The author Bryan Charles interviewed all the right people (including all five Pavement band members of the time), asked all the right questions and doesn't fall into the pitfall of analysing and over-analysing the lyrics. Some authors in this series do that ad nauseum - and often wrongly - yawn!

After the intro the book is made up of a series of interviews, along with the author's thoughts, and some interesting background about the band, what was going on, etc.

Charles is clearly quite a decent writer, which helps as he manages to maintain interest throughout. He also adds a further dimension by referring to events in his own life (particularly at the start) at certain points in the chronology of the band and the years in which he wrote the book, but it's never too off-topic and he doesn't allow that to come anyway close to taking over, so it remains an interesting background thread of some merit whilst the album remains fully in focus.

I differ from the author in that I always loved Wowee Zowee right from the off. As a teenager in England who'd got into Pavement around the time of the Crooked Rain Crooked Rain album, I bought Wowee Zowee as soon as it came out with hot anticipation. Some time before its release I'd listened in to a BBC Radio 1 session in which Grounded was played, and had been impressed. Alas, that session doesn't seem to have been included on any of the deluxe CD reissues... I remember that the album wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I immediately took to it. To me at the time it seemed like a cross between the previous album and the Westing compilation. (-My God, was that really nearly 20 years ago? how frightening!)

Just one opinion to take issue with: the Spiral Stairs song Hit the Plane Down on Crooked Rain Crooked Rain was 'arguably swappable' - you must be joking, mate! - that song makes that album damned near perfect!!

Cheers, TR.
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By BigMomma68 on 24 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
person i bought this for was over the moon with it. loved it to bits. cant say more than that.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Pak Jastrzebski on 28 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If your Pavement fan you should be able to relate to this book, it was a brilliant read and made me want to read more about this iconic band!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
buy it 30 July 2010
By C. F. Magee - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This particular 33 1/3 book had no reviews when I ordered it. I decided to take a risk just because I love Pavement so much, and Wowee Zowee in particular.

The book works because Bryan Charles very obviously loves the band and album deeply. There is a fair amount of this book that is autobiographical - something I expected would irritate me. But honestly, I dug it and truly felt that that aspect ended up enriching the entire thing. But anyway, the bulk of the material is comprised of interviews with the band members and other relevant personnel. There's plenty of detail about the recording of the songs and so forth. Plenty to keep you happy even if you don't care about Pavement's impact on the writer's teenage years.

I'd say the book is really all about Pavement in general and their effect on the writer. Wowee Zowee is the focus, obviously, but any Pavement fan should still buy this book even if Wowee Zowee isn't their favorite album. Charles even goes over his thought process in choosing which Pavement album to write about, which I thought was pretty cool.

Long story short - this is a very good, informative book. It is a loving, well-written, and worthy tribute to a great band and album. These 33 1/3 books (based on reviews here) seem to be very much hit-or-miss, but I think this one can be firmly placed in the "hit" section.

The last sentence in the Acknowledgements is "BUYING BOOKS IN BOOKSTORES IS COOL." Woops.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Large Disservice to Pavement 7 April 2012
By Penelope - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Pavement's Wowee Zowee" by Bryan Charles is one of the weakest entries in the '33 1/3' collection of books. The book's most obvious flaw is its digressive first-person narrative format. Most of the book feels far more focused on Charles and his personal problems than any kind of in-depth analysis of either 'Wowee Zowee' or Pavement's entire body of work. Charles writes at great length about his relationship troubles, family members he's been estranged from, his mistreatments at an office job, and the disappointments of running low on money. The book largely feels more like a diary or memoir than an academic or critical piece of writing. Charles even writes about all the effort he puts into contacting the band members and some supporters of Pavement as if his efforts to do his job of researching his own book needed to be presented to (and in one case complained about to) the reader. Most of the time Charles spends writing about his own personal life and his efforts to write this book amount to little more than filler material that takes up the space that Charles could have used to think more deeply and critically about Pavement, their music, and how they fit into different genres and trends in music. A final weakness of the book is how unprofessional it often is. Charles does not even bother to include a bibliography in his book which gives him free license to use quotes from others without attributing them to a specific source. At one point in the book, Charles mentions reading a quote from David Berman in a magazine, and then goes on to criticize Berman for his comment. Without a bibliography, a motivated reader would have no way of knowing where to find the issue or article where Berman made the statement that Charles refers to.

The writing that Charles displays in this book is overly self-involved, often far from relevant to the band and album being discussed, and occasionally unprofessional. These flaws and weaknesses in the book don't make Charles a bad writer so much as they make for a weak and disappointing entry in '33 1/3'. Pavement is a great and influential band that deserved a better '33 1/3' written about them. There are many other writers in the '33 1/3' series who were able to write about bands and albums without making their book all about the person writing it. All of those writers probably had difficulties in researching their books or trying to set up interviews while dealing with the day to day difficulties of being alive and they were able to have their books published without complaining to the reader about their problems and obstacles they faced in writing for '33 1/3'. Charles could have followed in their footsteps, and would have made a better book in doing so.

Lastly, this book adds nothing to discourse on Pavement. Fans of the band who have already seen the documentary 'Pavement: Slow Century' or read the band biography 'Perfect Sound Forever' will learn nothing from this book that were not already in those two previous texts.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
please stop. writing. like this. okay 28 Jan. 2012
By jamalong - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm reading this book. so far i'm a ways in. but it gets hard. the entire book. is written like this. it's hurting my brain.

I plan to read this whole book, but it feels somehow like chinese water torture or possibly like reading in another language that you don't know very well and are translating it in your head word by word as you go. Beyond his extremely annoying prose, the first 20 pages or so (as far as I've gotten) are just about the author, his jobs, his girlfriends and many stories about "rock dudes" "jocking out" to different bands. Basically it took him 20 pages to say he didn't like wowee zowee at first but then changed his mind. And then there was the epic scene where he was in the virgin megastore and decided to write this book. So uh, buyer beware. I think you have to be really interested in learning about this classic album (I am) in order to slog through this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Easily the Best Book on Pavement 27 Jun. 2011
By KoolWhp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Because of the beginning of the book is fairly autobiographical, I was afraid this was going to be yet another lame-ass waste of time where the author spends the majority of their time on themselves and not the actual band in question. It quickly turns into the best long-form written-word look at Pavement, even surpassing their biography from a couple years back. The interview with Malkmus alone is the musician's least guarded and most straightforward. I'm looking forward to reading more of the author's work.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
W.Z. Confidential 20 Oct. 2010
By Clare Quilty - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very well-done overview of a mostly unsung album by a great band.

As with a lot of the 33 1/3rd series, autobiography plays a part, but Bryan Charles is a keen, level-headed fan with a rich memory for time and place, and he uses his own background to give his reporting a foundation. Since we know how he feels about the group and exactly why, it amplifies his exploration of "Wowee Zowee" as he encounters and interviews the key figures behind it.

Just one thing about Charles' book was distracting, and this is totally my opinion. During a fair amount of the book, his style, phrasing, and sentence structure seem to owe a pretty heavy debt to the "White Jazz"-era prose of crime novelist James Ellroy. Charles doesn't suddenly go ultraviolent, but he does tend toward the short, staccato beats of Ellroy, with some of the hipster vibe. Call me crazy, but if you know the crime author's patter, you might see what I'm talking about in this portion:

"I told him I'd heard about a meeting with Matador and two of the Pavement guys. Gerard was pushing Wowee Zowee. You were checked out. You were on the phone or something, not listening. You said the record was s--t and nothing could be done with it."

Or this...

"I regressed a little, became a gaping fan ... I nudged my friend Jim. He stared too. Our dinner companions were square. They didn't know who Pavement was or get the big deal. Half a beer later I relaxed and quit staring so much. But seeing Mark Ibold still blew my mind...."

There are about two dozen more instances I could cite, but that'd probably only make me seem more OCD. And I realize this is an elaborate quibble, to be sure. Plus, if Charles actually is aping Ellroy, there are certainly worse or less appropriate writers he could mimic. Style aside, the overall product is a fine dissection of an excellent album.
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