In 1997, not quite 10 years after he formed Pavement in Stockton, California, with friend Scott Kannberg, Stephen Malkmus was still singing like a dude unsure of what he wanted to be. Quasi-crooner or monotone absurdist? Fantasy rapper or thrash scatman? His band, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were: a bunch of ironists who had evolved from remedial players into players who only pretended they were remedial. They proved it with Brighten the Corners, their penultimate and best album, which plotted those dangling-participle guitars and run-on drum patterns within classic-rock syntax.
As Malkmus dropped theories, observations, and segues of dubious logic, Pavement oozed a slackened merger of idiosyncrasy and competence that has since been copied by every shitty American indie band who fancy themselves "post-modern" and contrary. Matador's two-disc Nicene Creedence Edition (nyuk nyuk) goes way beyond the original 12-song release, adding a whopping 31 additional cuts: outtakes, B-sides, compilation tracks, and live radio sessions, all of them top-notch.
Award for best title goes to "Neil Hagerty Meets Jon Spencer in a Non-Alcoholic Bar," but psych-trash jam enthusiasts will go headbangy over the seven-minute "And Then (The Hexx)," which boasts a Sabbath-lite riff that only a smart-ass could love. This sprawling gold mine argues that Pavement are better than the Fall and Bob Dylan — if that's not true, please don't tell me, because I don't want to know.