Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavem> (Justin, Charles & Co.) nt

Rob Jovanovic 

Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavem> (Justin, Charles & Co.) nt

Pavement has always been known for its aloofness, so it's no surprise that the detachment continues in Perfect Sound Forever. For marginal fans, the book brings Pavement's early days to life with interviews reminiscing about things such as the band's first rudimentary studio sessions. ("We figured we'd use the static as the third instrument," Stephen Malkmus says. "The third band member was noise.") For hardcore fans who know the lore and have read all the 'zine interviews, the book's design and fresh post-breakup insights at least provide an afternoon of entertainment.

The rapid pace of Perfect Sound Forever can be credited to its brevity (217 pages, including a 10-page discography) and its design, which consciously pays tribute to the favored cut-and-paste collages of the band's earlier records while nodding to the Pavement aesthetic with hand-drawn arrows connecting highlighted text to handwritten footnotes.

Other flourishes include collections of record reviews, a list of band members' favorite records, song-by-song guides to Wowee Zowie and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and, best of all, a two-page "All in the Pavement Family Tree" list of "select influences" that includes the obvious (Sonic Youth, the Fall), the obscure (Swell Maps, Desperate Bicycles), the unexpected (Jim Croce, Echo & the Bunnymen) and the unthinkable (the Eagles).

Perfect Sound Forever reads like an account from a fan who was blown away by the band's first few records, only to lose interest as the group became a vehicle for Malkmus' forced irony. For the fans whose ears are still melting with the cacophonous euphoria of early work compiled on Westing (By Musket and Sextant) and Slanted and Enchanted, the chapters describing those sessions offer essential insight.

Much is said about the mechanics of the word-of-mouth hysteria in '90s indie-rock circles that helped cement the band's underground status -- the rise, as it were -- but the band apparently wasn't eager to talk much about its fall. The book was written with the band's cooperation, and it benefits from the access, but it's also hamstrung by the band's involvement. Some might find a loving, warts-airbrushed-out look at the band irritating. And Perfect Sound Forever is not hurried, but it's not complete, either. Jovanovic lets the band members describe the band's breakup yet offers no comment of his own, even when Malkmus' selfish behavior begs for it.

But even though the book glosses over the bulk of the band's later existence in favor of focusing on Pavement's development, Perfect Sound Forever is still a quick and enjoyable read for Pavement fans, casual and hardcore alike. -- Michael Vennard

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