Monday, October 25, 2010

All My Favorite Singers Couldn't Sing

But Spiral Stairs was not one of them.

I've been digesting a lot of Pavement lately; specifically, the deluxe versions of Slanted and Enchanted, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Wowee Zowee, and Brighten the Corners. You see, I have the long-ass commute to and from work, so most of my auditory consumption is done during this time. Beats drinking and texting. Anyway, spending two weeks with the forgoing albums (each one is two CDs--and completely maxed out with the original album, B-sides, outtakes, radio sessions, live cuts, and other random odds and ends) has led to the following epiphany: Spiral Stairs was a lousy "vocalist." He did not sing well. At all. Oh, but how he tried to, which makes enduring his efforts all the more painful. Stephen Malkmus, on the other hand, the guy who sang most of the songs, was better suited to lead the Pavement vessel--even when he couldn't be bothered to care. Indeed, I'd rather listen to him shipwreck "Type Slowly" or "Range Life" or "Fight This Generation" with his asleep-at-the-wheel delivery than hear Spiral "Scott Kannberg" Stairs utter a single on-key syllable (because likely the very next one will be markedly off). S. Malkmus had talent where S. Stairs had only will.

(Lest you think I hate the guy, I don't. I just don't care for his vocal contributions to the Pavement oeuvre [his guitar work, conversely, is unimpeachable]. And the two post-Pavement albums he made under the guise of Preston School of Industry hardly offend me. But his solo album? Now, we're talking. Released a year ago, the eponymous Spiral Stairs is a fine record, certainly better than the three stars All Music Guide assigns it, evidence that Mr. Stairs may have finally found his voice.)

1 comment:

Rob said...

"crooked rain" is where our tastes in that genre overlap — love that album*.

* ha: "album."