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The Haul 2010: Pavement's Watery, Domestic EP

Pavement – Watery, Domestic EP – Matador, 1992 – $7 (Newbury Comics in Harvard Square, 4/6)

Pavement's Watery, Domestic EP

Back in March, Pavement reissued their five full-lengths along with the Watery, Domestic EP at introductory prices to (presumably) capitalize on their upcoming reunion tour. Given that you could initially get all six LPs direct from Matador for the post-Ticketmaster price of one seat for their Boston show in September—a whopping $50—it’s hard to knock the vinyl pricing. The reunion tour, sure, that’s going to fund Nastonovich’s horse-racing gambling habits, Spiral Stairs’ next five solo albums, and Malkmus’s courtside seats for the Portland Trailblazers, but the recent proliferation of $20 to $25 reissues from Neutral Milk Hotel, the Smiths, and New Order makes a $10 LP a welcome change of pace. Terror Twilight aside, they’re all must-have albums.

My issue with these reissues is how they fit into an ongoing string of Pavement reissues from Matador. Their first four full-lengths have each received the 2CD set treatment and by all accounts these sets are near perfect. As someone who tracked down all of the group’s EPs and singles, it’s almost criminal that the new generation of Pavement fans can spend $15 and get all of the relevant b-sides, plus any extra demos, live recordings, or alternate takes from that album’s time period. Even with my current vinyl-only attitudes, getting the Nicene Creedence edition of Brighten the Corners on 2CD for $15 instead of the 4LP set for $65 was a no-brainer. (Editor's note: But $25 turned out to be feasible for it!) The ultimate question is how many times I can go to the well for a band I admittedly love. Take Watery, Domestic. I bought the original CDEP. The songs were included on the Slanted & Enchanted 2CD set. (You could argue—quite accurately—that I didn’t buy the Slanted 2CD for the songs I already owned, rather for the additional material, but I still bought it.) This vinyl repress makes the third time that I’ve paid for these songs in some capacity. “Texas Never Whispers” is on number four, having been included in the What’s Up Matador compilation, an essential part of my indie rock education. Pavement is making Morrissey and the Smiths twitch with envy.

So why did I pick up Watery, Domestic yet again? Beyond my desire to no longer be excited upon finding Ambergris’s self-titled LP, I can’t help but maintain my affections for what might be the best statement in Pavement’s catalog. Bridging the gap between the buzzing lo-fi hooks of Slanted and the mid-fi maturity of Crooked Rain, Watery, Domestic’s remarkable ease makes its four superb songs sound almost tossed-off. What strikes me about three of these four songs—“Lions (Linden)” mostly sticks with high school football—is how slippery they are. They glide along, throwing out perfect lines like “So much style that it’s wasting” without ever sounding glib. “Shoot the Singer (One Sick Verse)” is a melancholic, emotional song that still belies any attempt for a concrete reading. “Well I’ve seen saints, but remember / That I forgot to flag ’em down” and “Slow it down! Song is sacred!” each hold such resonance, but tying them to the rest of the song simply isn’t an easy task. There’s a logical counter-argument here that Malkmus lacked coherence for his elliptical poetry, but that’s what made these songs so appealing. It’s also what I miss so much in his songwriting nowadays. The gap between Watery, Domestic and “Harness Your Hopes” and “Carrot Rope” wasn’t as noticeable at the time, but Malkmus switched from sounding like he wasn’t trying at all to sounding like he was trying very, very hard. I’ll take the nonchalance for the third time, please.