As his former band prepare to stage their much-ballyhooed reunion next year, Scott Kannberg is breaking his five-year recording silence with what is arguably his least cryptic post-Pavement release. The first solo album credited to Kannberg’s nom de Pavement (past solo efforts have been released under the Preston School of Industry moniker), The Real Feel is a straight-ahead rock record written in the midst of a divorce, so it’s ripe with meaty riffage and emotional directness.
It’s also one of the best-sounding records of 2009, with a simple, clean style and plenty of piano, banjo, and pedal steel to flesh out the dynamics. The performances are red-eyed and wired, shifting from punchy (“True Love,” “Maltese T”) to exhausted (“Call the Ceasefire,” the eight-minute closer, “Blood Money”).
The vibe is aggressive without vitriol, and weary without lethargy. Only “A Mighty Mighty Fall” speaks directly to divorce, but the recurring themes of betrayal and disguise are more effective than blatant confessionals. In press materials, Kannberg cites divorce-rock classics by Richard and Linda Thompson and Fleetwood Mac as inspiration, but The Real Feel is nowhere near as haunting or disintegrated. It might be a new day, but what happened the night before is still under consideration.