InHear This,A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: In celebration of his new solo LP, we pick songs by Stephen Malkmus
The Wedding Present had no idea when it covered Pavement’s “Box Elder”— a B-side to one of the British band’s biggest singles, “Brassneck”—that Pavement would soon become one of the flag-bearers of ’90s indie-rock. Slanted And Enchanted hadn’t even been recorded when The Wedding Present bassist Keith Gregory returned from a trip to America, where he’d found Pavement’s barely distributed debut single, “Slay Tracks (1933-1969).” “Box Elder” was by far the poppiest of Pavement’s first songs, which were fuzzy and poorly recorded, filled with the sort of spasming gusto the band would later refine. The Wedding Present cleaned the song up in more ways than one, taking the edge off both the trebly guitars and the key lyric, changing “I had to get the fuck out of this town” to “I had to get right out of this town.” By the time Pavement got more popular, some people mistakenly believed that “Box Elder” was actually a Wedding Present song that Pavement had covered: The Wedding Present’s version was more widely available (as a bonus track on the Bizarro album) than the original, which went out of print for a time before being released on Pavement’s Westing (By Musket And Sextant) compilation. Both versions are cracking, though not massively dissimilar and can be easily obtained now. Oh, and both wrongly assert that the town of Box Elder is in Missouri (the lyric goes “I’m gonna head to Box Elder, M-O”) when in fact Box Elder is in Montana (whose postal abbreviation is MT). Curse you, Stephen Malkmus, for bad geographical information!