18 Years Ago: Pavement’s ‘Wowee Zowee’ Album Released
‘Slanted and Enchanted’ made Pavement one of indie rock’s coolest underground bands. ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ made them modern-rock heroes. So the notoriously fickle, artsy and fame-averse band did the most logical thing they could, at least in their minds, for their third album: They made a difficult and complex record that turned off the new fans and dared everyone else to ride this one out with them.
In sound and spirit, ‘Wowee Zowee’ (which celebrates its 18th anniversary today) sounds a bit like ‘Slanted and Enchanted.’ But the songs appear fragmented, sometimes unfinished. And the overall tone of the record is one of random noises stuck together by the flimsiest of melodies and concepts. Yet, there’s an undeniably bizarre rush to the album’s songs – a falling apart that actually comes together because of the chaos.
‘Wowee Zowee’ isn’t an easy album to get into, and once you’re in it, it’s not always listenable. But it’s Pavement’s most rebellious record, a splintered display of the band’s often disharmonic relationship with itself and its fans. The best songs – ‘Rattled by the Rush’ and ‘Father to a Sister of Thought’ – don’t stray too far from the places where ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ and ‘Crooked Rain’ resided. But there are six-minute songs, one-minute songs that sound like six-minute ones and a sense that the whole thing was tied together with some very strong, um, substance.
The album reached No. 117, four spots higher than ‘Crooked Rain’’s showing in 1994. But besides their final album, 1999’s ‘Terror Twilight,’ ‘Wowee Zowee’ is the band’s worst-selling record. Not so surprisingly, none of its songs received any airplay – not even on modern-rock radio. In 2006, the 1995 LP was reissued in a two-disc ‘Sordid Sentinels Edition’ that included various outtakes, B sides and session work. In a way, it helps make sense of an album that doesn’t make too much sense on its own. It puts in perspective a record that Pavement deliberately made difficult. In the band’s short, five-album career, ‘Wowee Zowee’ is the one with the most scattered pieces. Putting it all together becomes its purpose and point.
Watch Pavement’s Video for ‘Rattled by the Rush’