In the Slow Century DVD on the career of seminal nineties alt-rock band Pavement, when they were having difficulties coming up with a name for what would be their final album, 1999’s Terror Twilight, one of the suggestions was “Farewell Horizontal,” but percussionist Bob Nastanovich simply put it, “There was no way I was going to be on the Farewell Horizontal tour for the next year.” With lead songwriter Stephen Malkmus already itching to leave the group and start his solo career, it was going to be the final record, but not Farewell Horizontal final. Well, Farewell Horizontal’s time has come, as out comes Terror Twilight: Farewell Horizontal four-LP, two-CD deluxe edition, to go with the band’s 2022 reunion tour.
At the time, Terror Twilight got kind of a bad rap among Pavement fans and even Pavement itself, the recording process being hard, the gulf between Malkmus and the rest of the band becoming more apparent (such as non-inclusion of songs from sideman Scott Kannberg, or producer Nigel Godrich’s focus on Malkmus to the point of apparently not knowing Nastanovich’s name at one point). The shift to a big studio was of course pooh-poohed by indie purists who still held fast to their rambling 1992 debut Slanted and Enchanted. And it was the last release, so became object of ire for those upset that the band had broken up. Yet that has made it the Pavement album in most need of re-appraisal, even more than the preceding Brighten the Corners (QRO deluxe edition review) or Wowee Zowee (QRO deluxe edition review). And it’s the final Pavement release to get the deluxe edition treatment, something fans had been asking for, but was held up while Pavement’s reunion was held up for two years due to COVID crisis.
One interesting aspect
of Farewell Horizontal is that the track list on the LP edition (and
Spotify) is set to Nigel Godrich’s choice, not the final one from the band.
This puts a number of wackier, jam-fueled songs up front, such as “Platform
Blues” and “You Are a Light”, while singles like “Spit On a Stranger” and “Carrot
Rope” closer to the end. One can see why the 1999 track list went for the
easier listening songs up front, when ‘jam’ was associated with self-indulgent
boomers following The Dead on tour & pretending the sixties never ended,
but also why the shift works better now, where the indie/jam connection has
never been stronger (Phish’s Trey Anastasio has long been a Pavement fan). “Platform”
might not be a great lead-off hook, but does introduce what is to come.
Still, the change-up will leave now-aging Gen X wading through pieces for their now-legal weed before getting to the wonderful singles nearer the finish (with LP starting with the happier jams of “Billie” and the literal “Folk Jam”). Because you still your heart to be broken by “Major Leagues”, and your spirits to be lifted by “Carrot Rope” – and the powerful “Spit On a Stranger” is admittedly a fitting finish for Pavement. Included among the album’s original tracks is the unreleased short tech-jam instrumental “Shagbag” (perhaps a precursor to Malkmus’ Wig Out At Jagbags – QRO review).
The other first
non-album material are songs from the “Major Leagues” and “Spit On a Stranger”
singles, such as the very Jick-y “The Porpoise and the Hand Grenade” and “Stub
Your Toe”. However, not included from Major Leagues EP are two live
songs, “The Classical” and their excellent cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s
classic “The Killing Moon”. Also not included are Spit On a Stranger EP’s
“Harness Your Hope” or “Roll With the Wind”, a real miss, as both are as catchy
as any Pavement a-side – indeed, “Harness” became a TikTok sensation and
somehow the band’s most-played streaming track (befuddling Malkmus himself who
didn’t recognize it when overheard), and recently birthed the amazing new meta-video.
Perhaps they were withheld to “Harness” interest in the Spit On the Stranger
EP reissue, out the same day as Farewell Horizontal.
The rest of the
album (about five-eighths) is previously unreleased material, starting with a
slew of Malkmus’ own demos. Even for demos, they are pretty weird, Casio and
lo-fi vocals. Then come the recordings from the scrapped recording session at
Sonic Youth’s Echo Canyon studio, which lean into the meandering jam in the
more cohesive Sonic Youth way (but still has Malkmus informing mid-“Porpoise” that,
“Solo is coming up”). There’s the completely original meandering jam “Be the
Hook”, and Kannberg’s would-have-been-a-Pavement song “Preston School of
Industry” (later to come out in his post-Pavement act of the same name) finally
gets an instrumental version. Kannberg’s established Pavement favorite “Frontwards”
leads off the live songs to close out the deluxe edition, which are otherwise
If your musical
evolution ended with the end of the twentieth century, your feelings about Terror Twilight won’t be changed by Farewell
Horizontal. But now it can be seen
as important beginning of this millennium’s indie-jam movement. Still not a
great name for a tour…