http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/cea738cb174080d2107922a84760e54753f0a604.jpg Wowee Zowee


Wowee Zowee

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 2.5 0
February 2, 1998

What does a defiantly anti-corporate rock band do when it starts getting too much attention? In Pavement's case, they recoil. After a few ambitiously experimental though eminently tuneful releases — two singles and a 10-inch — for the tiny Drag City label, Pavement produced something of a masterpiece with their Velvet Underground-inspired first album, Slanted and Enchanted (1992). The Stockton, Calif., combo confirmed its buzz-band status on last year's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, this time stretching out a bit, with nods to the Flying Burrito Brothers and an "alternative" hit in "Cut Your Hair." Wowee Zowee finds the group returning to its more doggedly experimental impulses — with disappointing results.

Wowee betrays Pavement's best and worst tendencies. The band's refusal to play up to expectations keeps the stronger melodic ideas sounding fresh but leaves the album as a whole feeling scattered and sloppy. Having earlier proved that they can construct solid riffs, hooks and melodies, bandleaders Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg have here turned in a handful of half-baked performances.

Beginning with the stylistically vague "We Dance" — a song that either mocks early British art folk or shamelessly imitates it (I doubt even Pavement know for sure) — the album jerks mindlessly back and forth from odd, mellow song fragments to noisy, messy barnburners. Good, complete songs — including "Rattled by the Rush," "Grounded" and the Nirvana-like "Kennel District" — become diluted in the soup of tossed-off throwaways: "Brinks Job," with its whiny-falsetto vocals and a gratuitously noisy conclusion; "Serpentine Pad," a fleeting slambang tune that comes off like a second-rate Sonic Youth attempting hardcore, and "Best Friends Arm," which sounds like an unfinished rehearsal.

The most irksome thing about Wowee is that even the worst songs contain elements that reaffirm Pavement's underground star status: artful use of distortion and feedback, tangled guitar interplay with sizzle and groove, delicious melodies. And wonderful new additions to Pavement's instrumental palette, such as the milky pedal steel in "Father to a Sister of the Thought," get lost in the clutter of empty experimentation.

Maybe this album is a radical message to the corporate-rock ogre — or maybe Pavement are simply afraid to succeed.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »