A few seconds lapse before producer Nigel Godrich picks up the phone. In that time, the familiar sound of Pavement‘s desultory guitar wails echo in the background. Already, it’s obvious Godrich hasn’t performed a sonic lobotomy on the band’s archetypal lo-fi sound. “You know, I’m glad, I have to say,” Godrich says. “That means we haven’t ruined it.”
Currently, Godrich (Radiohead, R.E.M., Beck) is in London finishing mixing the last four songs that will appear on Pavement’s still-untitled follow-up to 1997’s Brighten the Corners, due out in early June. The ten-or-eleven track album, rumored by some to be their last, took approximately five weeks to record (in New York and London) and, according to Godrich, was planned to be their most accessible effort to date.
“Being such a big fan of them, and also a fan of their records and stuff, I had to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with them because I love the way it’s unpolished and pretty un-produced,” Godrich says. “So, obviously, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t feel like I could do something to make it special.”
At the same time, Godrich confesses there’s nary a “single” on the album, not unfamiliar territory for the radio-unfriendly Pavement. “It’s not drastically different,” he adds. “It doesn’t sound like Madonna, ’cause I can’t make records like that, anyway. I’m pretty earthy.”
Songs tentatively slated for the album, all of which were penned by frontman Stephen Malkmus, include “Spit on a Stranger,” a Lennon/McCartney-sounding song Godrich describes as more “sonically straight-ahead than the rest of their stuff”; the Captain Beefheart-soundalike titled “Ground Beefheart”; and “The Hex,” which Godrich says is an older song that they hadn’t planned on recording.
“I heard them jamming [on ‘The Hex’] and was just like, ‘do that,'” he says. He describes the song as “dark but [having] a lot of gravity … and a big guitar solo.” Godrich reveals the album’s wall-of-sound includes “a lot of atmospherics, as well as sort of wig-out endings,” a coda that’s become a Pavement trademark on stage.
Guests include Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who plays harmonica on “Ground Beefheart” and “Billy the Saint,” and High Llamas man-for-all-seasons Dominic Murcott, who filled in for drummer Steve West on another track.