on 15 February 2000
Brighten the corners is one of those albums. Most will listen but not understand, it is their loss. The album is a true masterpiece in every way. Those not used to the vocal style of Stephen Malkmus will argue that he cannot sing. Somehow though the wonky wisdom he preaches draws together the music in a spell bounding way. I have never smiled so much listening to an album. If you could bottle happiness its in this album. Lyrically odd, quirky and highly original, its not like your typical indie rock, not like anything else. If you have not heard Pavement before, this album is a great starting point. After a few listens if you are not a fan then you don't like music.
on 6 April 2009
Another embarassment of riches from Pavement. Many fans will have the original album and possibly many of the other tracks on CD singles. What separates these reissues from the pack however is the fantastic packaging - collecting photos, illustrations and anecdotes contemporary to the album's original release.
It has been said that this is the sound of Pavement unwinding - the gradual spiral down to the over produced and underwhelming Terror Twilight. I disagree. If Wowee Zowee is the sound of Pavement trying (and succeeding) to escape the bonds that constrain most guitar based bands the BTC is the sound of them orbiting rock kicking back at the top of their game.
The second disc is characteristicly choc full of treasures. Alternate versions of The Hexx and Tan lines among others shimmer so brightly that most bands would kill for a slice of their genius. Things went south from here but at this point Pavement had the world at their feet.
"Brighten the Corners" remains Pavement's most settled, accessable rock record, but the band doesn't eschew their musical sound or their indie roots. Rather, they just polish up the howly vocals and multilayered musical arrangements, and the result is pretty mellow and pleasant.
It starts off with the intermittently bombastic "Stereo," before shifting to the mellower "Shady Lane" and uplifted sound of "Transport is Arranged." A more raw sound enters with the fun rockers "Date with IKEA" and lighthearted "Embassy Road," while a plaintive confusion arrives with "Old to Begin." The remaining songs harken back to their indie roots, with the monotone jazziness of "Blue Hawaiian" and the weirdness of "We Are Underused" and "Passat Dream." It ends on a pretty strong note with the vaguely ominous "Fin," in which Malkmus requests, "I trust you will tell me/if I am making a fool of myself..."
"Brighten the Corners" serves to connect the lo-fi scratchiness of their early work to a more polished sound. Sure, there are some cries of "sell-out." But Pavement's sound transfers to the smooth studio sound without losing its complexity or raw magic.
The guitar riffs are as good as ever, starting and stopping one moment, and whirling around Malkmus's vocals the next; the percussion is a solid backdrop. There are also some coy beepy-bleepy snatches of mellotron, as well as what sounds like a wavery flute, giving a feeling of vague vulnerability to the lost-soul-type songs.
Malkmus will never sing in the opera, but his soulful monotone is wonderfully well-suited to the music. The songs themselves have a certain feeling of confusion, as if the world is bewildering and chaotic. "I heard what you said/the leaders are dead/now they're robbing the skies/you can hear the followers cry..."
Pavement was still in solid form in "Brighten the Corners." While it may not be the best, the mix of complex rock and thoughtful singing is enough to make it another budding classic by Pavement.
on 30 October 1999
In my opinion Pavement's finest album. From the first track Stereo to the last track Infinite Spark. A pure masterpiece. It's very mellow and peaceful at times as well and a great album to sing along to if you like that sort of thing (I know I do). Definitely one of my favorite all time albums. My favorite songs on there are Stereo, Shady Lane / J vs. S, Transport Is Arranged, Type Slowly, We Are Underused and Starlings Of The Slipstream.
on 21 January 2009
I know we've still got Terror Twilight to go, but I can't wait any longer. Since the first re-issues of the Pavement back catalogue appeared a few years ago, this has become a sort of, every-year-to-eighteen-month ritual: buying each two-disc special.
This is how re-issues should be done.
Will the SM's first solo effort get the same treatment. Can't wait!
Although often compared unfavourably with the band's first three albums, particularly the inspired set of songs on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or the sheer (reactionary) eclecticism of Wowee Zowee, this 1997 Pavement album (for me) still has much to commend it. Indeed, on the surface, it would be possible to criticise Brighten The Corners as being rather samey, but, digging rather more deeply, many of the songs reveal their own individual, subtle qualities (along with some of Stephen Malkmus' most poetic, witty and hilarious sets of lyrics).
In fact, although Malkmus writes 10 of the 12 songs here, the two Scott Kannberg compositions are of particular note. Kannberg's Roger McGuinn-like guitar opening on Date With Ikea is an album highpoint for me, and the song's apparently ambivalent tale of the band's ties to their Californian origins makes for engaging listening. Then, on Passat Dream, the band recreate the sound of another seminal guitarist, Lou Reed, with the song's rhythmically chugging, Velvets-like beat, in a brilliantly vibrant and amusing tale of a Volkswagen car fantasy ('That's the car to his soul').
Elsewhere, Malkmus has penned a nice mix of (predominantly) mid-tempo rockier numbers and the odd ballad. Of the former, album openers (and singles), Stereo and Shady Lane provide great examples, Stereo with its rocking tale of fleeting stardom and Shady Lane with its sublime melody and dextrous lyrics ('A redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash, and this emery board is giving me a rash'). Similarly, each of Starlings Of The Slipstream and Embassy Row provide more moody vocals and infectious guitar playing from Malkmus, whilst Type Slowly is an altogether more reflective affair, as close as the songwriter gets to a true ballad here, with tinges of romance in another inventive set of lyrics.
For me, the other major highlight of the album is provided by album closer Fin / Infinite Spark - this is another Malkmus tour-de-force, an obvious companion piece to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain's finale, Fillmore Jive (in my book, taken together two of the man's finest ever compositions), on which, from a deceptively dreamy and laid back intro (to Steve West's military beat), Malkmus again embarks on guitar solo that has distinct echoes of Neil Young (with a little bit of Ira Kaplan thrown in), thereby providing an instrumental assault which takes place over some nicely ironic lyrics, redolent of self-parody, as Malkmus intones, 'I trust you will tell me if I am making a fool of myself...' - and, at a mere five and half minutes duration, it's all over far too quickly.
An album that would be worth acquiring for this climactic composition alone.
on 5 October 1999
This band possesses some kind of magical halo that know one cantouch. You know when you've found something special when you can't compare them to anyone else, Pavement are in a class of their own. They show their magical colour's 'Stereo' the best song on the album which you may hear on the radio now and then. They remind the listener now and then that at any moment they could explode or just let you listen to the joy of a matured band. Other good songs are 'Ode to Begin and Embassy Row'. The music is colourful and bright this time around.
on 21 September 2000
Pavement, the queens of modern American Lo-Fi! This eclectic offering brings a refreshing wave of mayhem from the minute you press play. 'Bighten the Corners opens with the aptly named 'Stereo', a song by all contrasts giving the listener a full flavour of the very stuff that is Pavement. With the all time great line - "what about the voice of Gedi Lee, I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy; I know him and he does". This wonderful nonsense prevails throughout with the lyrical timbre ranging from the absurd to the absurder! Musically the 3 minute form is stretched out of all recognition, with half finished themes rolling into neatly explored phrases to downright heavenly 'noise'.
Lo-Fi has never had it so good, a co-hesive blend of disonance and tongue - in - cheek harmoniousness. The album moves swiftly without peaks and troughs, just one long high ride! If you have not ventured into Pavement territory, this is the album to familiarise yourself with. For those veteran fans, a culmination of anarchistic adolescence metamorphosising into a Utopia of sound and fable.
Go Buy It!
on 17 March 2007
'whats your favourite pavement album?' is a rhetorical question for me, i mean if push came to shove, i guess ill listen to crooked rain crooked rain the most, but brighten the corners is a cryptic record, that really does seem to change everytime you listen to it. Lyrically its just fantastical-SM's bizzare phrasing is not only highly original but the unpredictability makes every listen seem different. and what a range of songs on offer here! so different, even though the album is bought together by a strange and slightly disturbing undercurrent. I always think of this album as the personality fight we all endure within ourselves, the conflicting emotions that at times make us feel literally insane.
anyways, highlights include- shady lane - transport is arranged-passat dream-starlings in the slipstream-blue hawiian and date with ikea is awsome too.
one of those special albums, that reminds you just how complicated it is to be human sometimes- the comedy, and the tragedy.
on 20 April 2001
After the haphazard, awkward beauty of Pavement's first three LPs, the initial overriding impression of BTC to fans of the band was that the sound had been smoothed over to its detriment. Thing is, Stephen Malkmus always was a great songwriter (and a fantastic lyricist), and one never really appreciated that the wilfully lo-fi production that characterised their earlier sound was probably holding them back somewhat. So, yeah, it took a fair while for me to appreciate this LP fully. I always enjoyed the singles Stereo and Shady Lane, but now I hear tracks like the totally sublime Type Slowly (sample lyric: "One of us is a cigar stand / And one of us is a lovely blue incandescent guillotine") and go all goose-pimply.
Their last truly great LP.