Album Review: Pavement, ‘The Secret History Vol. 1′
First, let’s get the bubble-bursting out of the way: If you’re among the Pavement fans who’ve been anticipating new material since the band’s 2010 reunion, you’ll need to “harness your hopes” (a line from a latter-day B-side of the same name). This new archival release doesn’t contain any new material, no new material is coming (according to recent statements made by former bandleader Stephen Malkmus), and Pavement is essentially done-for again. To make matters worse, The Secret History Vol. 1 consists entirely of rarities that were already packaged on the 2002 deluxe reissue of the iconic ’90s underground act’s full-length debut, Slanted and Enchanted.
If you already own that release, then there’s little reason to revisit this one – other than, perhaps, to hear the songs re-arranged (for whatever inexplicable reason) into a different running order. In the liner notes, music journalist Rob Sheffield suggests that The Secret History serves as a snapshot of the album that could’ve come between Slanted and Enchanted and its 1994 follow-up, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. But that’s a tough sell with 30 songs from disparate sessions. If, to use Sheffield’s term, a “shadow album” does indeed lurk within the grooves of The Secret History Vol. 1, there are only nine studio-recorded tunes here to begin with.
Sure, the 1992 live recording from London’s Brixton Academy documents the band after having just expanded from the three-piece studio unit of Malkmus, Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg and original drummer Gary Young into a five-piece with the addition of percussionist Bob Nastanovich and bassist Mark Ibold. But the deluxe Slanted and Enchanted actually contains four more studio cuts (the follow-up EP Watery, Domestic) that this new package lacks.
It is impossible to overstate Pavement’s stature within the pantheon of ’90s indie rock. But, all things considered, this album sheds little new light (and in fact simply rehashes) a history that’s already been told.