Pavement’s ‘Terror Twilight’ deluxe edition sheds new light on the band’s farewell album
"The damage has been done / I am not having fun anymore."
Was Stephen Malkmus talking about himself as frontman of Pavement in the opening lines to "Ann Don't Cry" from the band's final album, Terror Twilight. As with most of Malkmus' Pavement lyrics, there are lots of interpretations, but It's kinda hard not to read it that way. Terror Twilight has always had a black cloud hanging over it, with a reputation as a dark bummer of an album, fussed over too much in the studio by Malkmus and star producer Nigel Godrich without much input from the rest of the band.
Terror Twilight was the most fraught production as well. The band first tried making it in Malkmus' new home of Portland, OR, but that proved unfruitful. Their UK label, Domino, suggested they work with Godrich, who had produced Radiohead's OK Computer, Beck's Mutations and worked on REM's Up. They decided to give it a shot. After a week of practicing at drummer Steve West's house in Virginia, the band headed to New York to make the record with Godrich.
The original plan was to record at Echo Canyon, Sonic Youth's studio/rehearsal space in the Financial District, but Godrich was used to studios like Abbey Road and BBC's Maida Vale and wasn't crazy about SY's relatively DIY setup. He instead suggested they move to RPM Studios, a very professional and expensive studio in the Village where everyone from The Rolling Stones to the Beastie Boys had made records. (The album ended up being Pavement's most expensive album by a mile.) They cut basic tracks for most the album in 12 days. "It was really Steve Malkmus, Nigel Godrich and the Pavement Band," is how Bob Nastanovich described the sessions on a recent episode of the Kreative Kontrol podcast. Godrich, Malkmus and Spiral Stairs then headed to London to finish the album at legendary RAK studios. Bassist Mark Ibold flew out too, and using High Llamas drummer Dominic Murcott, they recorded two new songs, "Carrot Rope" and "Major Leagues," two of the poppiest songs on what ended up being a dark, heavy record.
Adding to Terror Twilight's stigma was that it was that it was also the only Pavement album that didn't get the deluxe edition treatment (the other four albums got them in the '00s) on its 20th anniversary. That has finally been rectified with Farewell Horizontal, which adds three vinyl LPs worth of outtakes, b-sides, Malkmus demos, alternate versions of songs from aborted recording sessions, live tracks and more. The booklet features a conversation between Nastanovich, West, Ibold, and Godrich with Farewell Horizontal's executive producer, former Matador employee and Endless Boogie frontman Jesper Eklow, plus an essay from Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kanneberg, a reprinted 2000 Tape Op interview with Malkmus, and lots of rare pics, and other ephemera of the era.
Most interestingly, Farewell Horizontal -- which was one of the alternate titles for the record that was mulled over ("Some of Our Pants" and "Blown Coverage" were among the others) -- also restores producer Nigel Godrich's preferred tracklist which is very different from what was released on June 8, 1999. The original version of Terror Twilight opened with "Spit on a Stranger," the album's first single, but Nigel's version starts with two of the heaviest, jammiest songs on the record: "Platform Blues" and "The Hexx." Godrich also dares to put "Carrot Rope" in the middle of the album. It's a song that is so different from everything else on the album that the original tracklist literally just tacks it on at the end, titling it "...and Carrot Rope" with a shrug.
Maybe it's Godrich's track order, maybe it's just time away, but Terror Twilight sounds pretty good in 2022, and feels like it's gotten better with age. It also sounds much more like a Pavement album now than it did in 1999 when the baggage of its creation came with it, even though Kanneberg's essay in the liner notes is titled "The Terror Twilight... or Pavement’s All Shook Down," which is a reference to The Replacements' final album that many consider to be a Paul Westerberg solo album.
"You Are a Light" "Spit on a Stranger," the doomy "Cream of Gold," "Ann Don't Cry," "Billie," and "Folk Jam" are Pavement songs through-and-though. Only "Carrot Rope" and "Major Leagues" really feel like songs that could've ended up on Malkmus' first solo album. One that did, "The Hook," was actually tried out during the RPM sessions as "Be the Hook," and is one of Farewell Horizontal's many bonus tracks.
I like Godrich's track order a lot. While "Spit on a Stranger," with its drum fill false start and gentile build, sounds like an opening track, Godrich has a point that starting with two of the album's odder songs -- the skronky "Platform Blues" (harmonica solo: Jonny Greenwood) and the menacing, atmospheric "The Hexx" (a song they also tried to record for Brighten the Corners) -- makes you more accepting of anything that might come next. "I always want to start heavy and draw you in," he says in the liner notes. His track order closes with "Spit on a Stranger," with Malkmus waving goodbye, singing "I'll be the one that leaves you high...high...high."
As for the bonus material, there weren't a lot of outtakes from the cutting room floor, unlike previous albums, but we do get all of Malkmus' demos -- he never actually made demos before Terror Twilight --, all of which are colored with lots of bloopy, '70s-style synthesizer (he'd just bought a Moog and was learning to use it with these demos). Most of the demos don't have completed lyrics, though "Major Leagues" feels 90% there, and was released on the "Major Leagues" EP along with another demo for faux French pop song, "Decouvert De Soleil," that's a lot of fun. There's nothing revelatory here, but they do offer some insight into Malkmus' creative process.
Same goes for the Echo Canyon sessions, which don't sound totally different from what was recorded at RPM and RAK studios, just much rougher, with scratch vocals and looser performances. There are also a few recordings from the sessions at Jackpot Studios in Portland, as well as rehearsal tapes from Portland that include a Spiral Stairs number titled "For Sale! Preston School of Industry," the title of which he would use for the name of his post-Pavement band. Terror Twilight is the only Pavement album not to have any Spiral Stairs songs, though a few of his songs would end up as b-sides, like “Your Time to Change,” “Stub Your Toe” (which are both here). The final side of the four-album set is from their June 17, 1999 show at NYC's Irving Plaza, just a week or so after the release of the album, all of which is pretty great, "The Hexx" and "You Are a Light" especially. Pavement would play their final show (until 2010) in London that November.
The only thing really missing here are the "Spit on a Stranger" b-sides "Harness Your Hopes" (which has become Pavement's most popular Spotify song thanks to Tik-Tok and streaming algorithms) and "Roll With the Wind," but Matador has just reissued the EP on vinyl as well. Perhaps less essential than the previous deluxe editions, but fans will still pour over the bonus material. More than anything, it's a good excuse to revisit Terror Twilight, a fitting, horizontal farewell to one of the best bands of the '90s.
Grab Terror Twilight: Farewell Horizontal, and other Pavement albums on vinyl, in the BV shop.