Monday, March 25, 2019

Certain Songs #1491: Pavement – “We Dance” | Medialoper

Album: Wowee Zowee
Year: 1995

It was March of 1995, and I was living in Oakland and flying down to L.A. to visit Rox, who was living on an apartment on Hollywood Blvd. And, of course, during that spring/summer, there was always loads of CD shopping, as there was still a plethora of what we used to call “record stores” in Hollywood.

It was during one of those trips where I bought the first taste of the follow-up to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, the Rattled by La Rush EP. And I was puzzled: unlike the three singles from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain — “Cut Your Hair,” “Gold Soundz” and “Range Life” — for those of you keeping score at home, “Rattled by The Rush” was far less pop and far more difficult, and as such was the perfect lead single for Wowee Zowee, perhaps the most difficult of all of the difficult third albums ever released.

While I eventually grew to enjoy “Rattled by The Rush” — it was fun that they ripped off “Dancing Days,” there was one hell of a guitar solo, and the hook eventually found it’s way into my heart — the key word there is “eventually,” and that was a new thing for me with Pavement.

So I played Wowee Zowee over and over again, looking for a way in, and never quite finding one, but never really giving up, either. That said, it was totally an album made for mixtapes: 18 songs, pick your favorites and put ’em on tapes with their contemporaries from other artists. Which is what I did, beginning with the opening track, the lovely “We Dance.”

Starting off with an acoustic guitar and piano — kinda like the opening of “Moonlight Mile,” but not nearly as grand — “We Dance” is as sparse as any Pavement song ever, as Stephen Malkmus sings:

There is no
Castration fear
In a chair
You will be
With me

We’ll dance
We’ll dance
We’ll dance
We’ll dance

Eventually, bassist Mark Ibold and drummer Steve West come in, but more for support than propulsion, as “We Dance” wanted to send a message that Wowee Zowee was going to be yet another left turn for a band that specialized in them, and maybe a band that had figured out that they’d already had their shot, so they might as well do whatever they wanted.

Pick out some Brazilian nuts
For your engagement
Check that expiration date man
It’s later than you think

You can’t enjoy yourself
I can’t enjoy myself
You can’t enjoy yourself
I can’t enjoy myself

At the time, “We Dance” seemed like it was barely a song: more like an introduction to the rest of the album proper, which started with the second track, the aforementioned “Rattled by The Rush.” But at the same time, I grew into loving it for itself, and eventually realized that it was really a statement of … well, not purpose, but intent: hey this one is going to be different, but still, maybe we can dance together.

“We Dance”

“We Dance” live 1999

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