Since Pavement switched course with each record — Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was nothing like Slanted & Enchanted, and Brighten the Corners was decidedly different from the brilliant, warped Wowee Zowee — it’s a little disarming to realize that Terror Twilight merely deepens the sound of its predecessor. Guitars burst to the forefront every so often — most notably on the dense jam “Platform Blues” and the shouted choruses of “Billie” — yet they’re usually used as texture. Nothing rocks hard and “The Hexx,” which was heard on the Brighten tour as a metallic epic, has been transformed into a surrealistic dream, reminiscent of the Velvet Underground‘s “Ocean.” That’s typical of Terror Twilight — it’s reflective, with the occasional flight of fancy that fits neatly into the laid-back flow. It’s also the tightest record Pavement ever made, largely due to producer Nigel Godrich, who helped reign in excessive tendencies in Radiohead and Beck and does the same here. The band still sounds like Pavement — their loping interplay is unmistakable — and Stephen Malkmus‘ songs are typically dense and literate, yet they’re easier to digest. That, along with the lack of Spiral Stairs songs, gives Terror Twilight a cohesion missing even on earlier Pavement albums, no matter how great they were. All the focus makes the album feel a little less like Pavement — after all, this is a band whose imperfections were among their most endearing qualities — and a bit more like Malkmus‘ first solo album, which it essentially is. Though it’s hard not to miss the gloriously messy sprawl of Pavement at their peak, this carefully crafted, languid recasting of their signature sound is effective and winds up as a fitting, bittersweet farewell for the best band of the ’90s.
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