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Pavement's Wowee Zowee (33 1/3) [Kindle Edition]

Bryan Charles
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Kindle Edition, May 6, 2010 $9.99  
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Book Description

Pavement wrapped up at Easley Recording in Memphis. They mixed the tracks and recorded overdubs in New York. They took a step back and assessed the material. It was a wild scene. They had fully fleshed-out songs and whispers and rumors of half-formed ones. They had songs that followed a hard-to-gauge internal logic. They had punk tunes and country tunes and sad tunes and funny ones. They had fuzzy pop and angular new wave. They had raunchy guitar solos and stoner blues. They had pristine jangle and pedal steel. The final track list ran to eighteen songs and filled three sides of vinyl.


Released in 1995, on the heels of two instant classics, Wowee Zowee confounded Pavement's audience. Yet the record has grown in stature and many diehard fans now consider it Pavement's best. Weaving personal history and reporting—including extensive new interviews with the band—Bryan Charles goes searching for the story behind the record and finds a piece of art as elusive, anarchic and transportive now as it was then.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Charles puts himself in the center of the book—we read about hisaimless college years in Michigan and his discovery of Pavement, whosesongs initially seem half hearted, even bratty, but actually contain anundertow of emotion that's hard to articulate.Charles' writing is the same way. He succinctly captures the flavorof being in one's late teens and early 20s without going intounnecessary detail. Finishing school, he undergoes that arduous,interminable crisis of figuring out what to do with life,discovering that one of the only things that still makes sense isPavement. Charles returns to the band time and again, the music weavinga thread through his life. The book includes unvarnished interviewswith members of the band, providing an honest, first-person account ofthe making of the record. But the heart of the book isn't Pavement;it's Charles, and novelist or no, he has turned in one of the bestpieces of rock journalism in recent memory—a no-bullshit, heartfeltmanifesto of fandom."
-The Portland Mercury



"At the core of every 33 1/3 book is the question of roping in readers who may be unfamiliar with the band or album, but Charles is able to resituate Pavement as the everyman band they were during the 90spayday. From tales of major label flirtations (which the band is quick to dismiss as nothing more than random dalliances with thepowers-that-be) to the band's reputation as slackers (which finds Stephen Malkmus tossing aside by pointing out the band's relentless touring schedule), Charles covers much more than the time period of Wowee Zowee without abandoning the album's specific importance in their catalog.Part history lesson, part fanzine love letter, Bryan Charles has written a book that is as ambitious and yet as untethered as hissubject matter."
-Tiny Mix Tapes

"[Charles has written] an oral history about the genesis and recording of Pavement's Wowee Zowee album that is infused with his own personal fandom of the band. Charles paints a vivid picture of the band as it wrote and recorded the album through interviews with band members and the creatives who surrounded the production of the album, all the while sharing his own experiences with the album and as a Pavement fan.
Mixing the album's history with Charles' own works exceedingly well, and captures not only the essence of Pavement when they recorded Wowee Zowee, but also the indie rock culture of the time.
-Largehearted Boy

"At the core of every 33 1/3 book is the question of roping in readers who may be unfamiliar with the band or album, but Charles is able to resituate Pavement as the everyman band they were during the 90spayday. From tales of major label flirtations (which the band is quick to dismiss as nothing more than random dalliances with thepowers-that-be) to the band’s reputation as slackers (which finds Stephen Malkmus tossing aside by pointing out the band’s relentless touring schedule), Charles covers much more than the time period of Wowee Zowee without abandoning the album’s specific importance in their catalog.Part history lesson, part fanzine love letter, Bryan Charles has written a book that is as ambitious and yet as untethered as hissubject matter."
-Tiny Mix Tapes

Review

"Charles puts himself in the center of the book we read about hisaimless college years in Michigan and his discovery of Pavement, whosesongs initially seem half hearted, even bratty, but actually contain anundertow of emotion that's hard to articulate.Charles' writing is the same way. He succinctly captures the flavorof being in one's late teens and early 20s without going intounnecessary detail. Finishing school, he undergoes that arduous, interminable crisis of figuring out what to do with "life", discovering that one of the only things that still makes sense isPavement. Charles returns to the band time and again, the music weavinga thread through his life. The book includes unvarnished interviewswith members of the band, providing an honest, first-person account ofthe making of the record. But the heart of the book isn't Pavement;it's Charles, and novelist or no, he has turned in one of the bestpieces of rock journalism in recent memory a no-bullshit, heartfeltmanifesto of fandom."-The Portland Mercury

Product Details

  • File Size: 880 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (May 6, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004ZX5MUG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,131 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buy it July 30, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This particular 33 1/3 book had no reviews when I ordered it. I decided to take a risk just because I love Pavement so much, and Wowee Zowee in particular.

The book works because Bryan Charles very obviously loves the band and album deeply. There is a fair amount of this book that is autobiographical - something I expected would irritate me. But honestly, I dug it and truly felt that that aspect ended up enriching the entire thing. But anyway, the bulk of the material is comprised of interviews with the band members and other relevant personnel. There's plenty of detail about the recording of the songs and so forth. Plenty to keep you happy even if you don't care about Pavement's impact on the writer's teenage years.

I'd say the book is really all about Pavement in general and their effect on the writer. Wowee Zowee is the focus, obviously, but any Pavement fan should still buy this book even if Wowee Zowee isn't their favorite album. Charles even goes over his thought process in choosing which Pavement album to write about, which I thought was pretty cool.

Long story short - this is a very good, informative book. It is a loving, well-written, and worthy tribute to a great band and album. These 33 1/3 books (based on reviews here) seem to be very much hit-or-miss, but I think this one can be firmly placed in the "hit" section.

The last sentence in the Acknowledgements is "BUYING BOOKS IN BOOKSTORES IS COOL." Woops.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars please stop. writing. like this. okay January 27, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm reading this book. so far i'm a ways in. but it gets hard. the entire book. is written like this. it's hurting my brain.

I plan to read this whole book, but it feels somehow like chinese water torture or possibly like reading in another language that you don't know very well and are translating it in your head word by word as you go. Beyond his extremely annoying prose, the first 20 pages or so (as far as I've gotten) are just about the author, his jobs, his girlfriends and many stories about "rock dudes" "jocking out" to different bands. Basically it took him 20 pages to say he didn't like wowee zowee at first but then changed his mind. And then there was the epic scene where he was in the virgin megastore and decided to write this book. So uh, buyer beware. I think you have to be really interested in learning about this classic album (I am) in order to slog through this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Large Disservice to Pavement April 6, 2012
Format:Paperback
"Pavement's Wowee Zowee" by Bryan Charles is one of the weakest entries in the '33 1/3' collection of books. The book's most obvious flaw is its digressive first-person narrative format. Most of the book feels far more focused on Charles and his personal problems than any kind of in-depth analysis of either 'Wowee Zowee' or Pavement's entire body of work. Charles writes at great length about his relationship troubles, family members he's been estranged from, his mistreatments at an office job, and the disappointments of running low on money. The book largely feels more like a diary or memoir than an academic or critical piece of writing. Charles even writes about all the effort he puts into contacting the band members and some supporters of Pavement as if his efforts to do his job of researching his own book needed to be presented to (and in one case complained about to) the reader. Most of the time Charles spends writing about his own personal life and his efforts to write this book amount to little more than filler material that takes up the space that Charles could have used to think more deeply and critically about Pavement, their music, and how they fit into different genres and trends in music. A final weakness of the book is how unprofessional it often is. Charles does not even bother to include a bibliography in his book which gives him free license to use quotes from others without attributing them to a specific source. At one point in the book, Charles mentions reading a quote from David Berman in a magazine, and then goes on to criticize Berman for his comment. Without a bibliography, a motivated reader would have no way of knowing where to find the issue or article where Berman made the statement that Charles refers to. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the Best Book on Pavement June 27, 2011
By KoolWhp
Format:Paperback
Because of the beginning of the book is fairly autobiographical, I was afraid this was going to be yet another lame-ass waste of time where the author spends the majority of their time on themselves and not the actual band in question. It quickly turns into the best long-form written-word look at Pavement, even surpassing their biography from a couple years back. The interview with Malkmus alone is the musician's least guarded and most straightforward. I'm looking forward to reading more of the author's work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars W.Z. Confidential October 20, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very well-done overview of a mostly unsung album by a great band.

As with a lot of the 33 1/3rd series, autobiography plays a part, but Bryan Charles is a keen, level-headed fan with a rich memory for time and place, and he uses his own background to give his reporting a foundation. Since we know how he feels about the group and exactly why, it amplifies his exploration of "Wowee Zowee" as he encounters and interviews the key figures behind it.

Just one thing about Charles' book was distracting, and this is totally my opinion. During a fair amount of the book, his style, phrasing, and sentence structure seem to owe a pretty heavy debt to the "White Jazz"-era prose of crime novelist James Ellroy. Charles doesn't suddenly go ultraviolent, but he does tend toward the short, staccato beats of Ellroy, with some of the hipster vibe. Call me crazy, but if you know the crime author's patter, you might see what I'm talking about in this portion:

"I told him I'd heard about a meeting with Matador and two of the Pavement guys. Gerard was pushing Wowee Zowee. You were checked out. You were on the phone or something, not listening. You said the record was s--t and nothing could be done with it."

Or this...

"I regressed a little, became a gaping fan ... I nudged my friend Jim. He stared too. Our dinner companions were square. They didn't know who Pavement was or get the big deal. Half a beer later I relaxed and quit staring so much. But seeing Mark Ibold still blew my mind...."

There are about two dozen more instances I could cite, but that'd probably only make me seem more OCD. And I realize this is an elaborate quibble, to be sure. Plus, if Charles actually is aping Ellroy, there are certainly worse or less appropriate writers he could mimic. Style aside, the overall product is a fine dissection of an excellent album.
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