In 2003 Rolling Stone ranked Slanted and Enchanted at 135 of their 500 greatest albums of all time, knocking close contenders The Chronic and Parallel Lines down a position. The same tragedy befell Nevermind when in the same year Pitchfork staff rated Pavement’s debut as the fifth greatest album of the ’90s.
Slanted and Enchanted appears as a towering superlative in plenty of other lists, which have lauded it as the “quintessential” Clinton-era album next to The Soft Bulletin and OK Computer. And it’s deserved. Slanted trail blazed countless bands who adapted the lackadaisical vocals of Stephen Malkmus matched with Velvet Underground influences that brought noise rock back into the music foreground, and drew the blueprint for lo-fi bands today. But, when Malkmus and co. were writing the material for the album—which was as early as 1990, though the album was released April 20, 1992—they didn’t anticipate the cultural impact their songs would have on indie rock. Indeed, they probably didn’t care.
Slanted remains one of the better examples of a band creating and sharing music out of love for the art, and not on an agenda.
Initially comprising 14 songs (2002’s Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe boasts two discs and 48 tracks en masse), the album fit entirely on a cassette and was circulated by its founding members in 1991, before Pavement signed to Matador and it was formally released.
Its songs have a sound as dirty, rough and real as the band name suggests. Though “Summer Babe” is often considered its standout track, Slanted and Enchanted has a robust track list without containing anything poppy enough for the airwaves. Yet, each song is catchy enough for its audience to remember the words after one listen, and could be extracted from the rest of the album and enjoyed independently. Whether it’s the melodies, guitar part, rhythm or Malkmus’ cheeky half-talking/half-singing demeanor that was present in many of the songs, every track is memorable. No song sounds exactly like the one before it and still Slanted and Enchanted keeps its pace.
Today we celebrate 20 years since Slanted and Enchanted’s label release on Matador. An album that—whether or not its creators intended it—influenced its generation, this generation, and likely more to come. Here’s to another two decades, Pavement.