Imagine a world in which Sonic Youth aren’t smug, the Fall don’t think they’re literary, Tommy James has had it with playing to the kiddies and Iggy Pop hits all the notes. Now imagine they’re all one band. That band is Pavement, whose Slanted and Enchanted (1992) exploded their fan base from know-it-all cultsters to mainstream Next Big Thingers. Westing gathers material from their four previous releases, all EPs, and throws in the bonus tracks “My Radio” (from the compilation disc Chemical Imbalance) and “My First Mine” (once a flexidisc in the pages of the fanzine Ablaze!).
This timely document not only tracks the greatness of the outfit — always comprised of Steve Malkmus (“SM,” of Stockton, Calif.) and Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg and accessorized with various others — for those riding the Slanted wave, but it may be superior to that much-touted record, depending on whether your taste runs to fuzzed-out anthems like “Forklift” or the increasingly Pooh Sticks-like Pavement of “Summer Babe,” by which time the band’s sound is stripped down, cleaned up and beginning to show signs of self-consciousness. The material is so shoddily recorded, it dares you to run screaming from the room, but you’ll stay for the incontrovertible pop hooks, nerve-twanging guitars, lyrics that range from ironic to incomprehensible and supremely sensible attitude.
No band better understands that pop music makes for a pleasant afternoon but a rather silly obsession, and Pavement churn out three-minute garage pop with an offhand grace that belies their skill. Westing is like a bombed-out landscape of pop history, and Pavement stroll through it without tears, kicking aside the occasional bottle and talking loud over the roar of demolition cranes, noting that it may be ugly, but it’s still good fun.