by Mike Corrigan

Into the vacuum created by Pavement's demise at the end of the last century strode co-founders Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg (a.k.a. Spiral Stairs) with two very different solo ventures to satiate old fans and, perhaps, establish new dynasties in the new millennium. While Malkmus has the built-in advantage of vocal recognition (he was the voice of Pavement, after all) and a craftier way with language, Kannberg's offering -- under the banner of Preston School of Industry -- has plenty to recommend it.

The opening salvo of All This Sounds Gas ("Whalebones") glimmers in vintage late-Pavement ambiance: warm, delicate and moderately amped guitars secured by a friendly bass line ambling merrily along in medium tempo. It's only when the singer jumps in a few measures down the line that we are shaken out of the dream. This isn't Pavement, our constant, now dearly departed '90s companion. Pavement is gone. And literate, slacker-boy indie-rock will never be the same again. Fortunately, though it sounds a bit tentative and unsure in places, All This Sounds Gas finds Kannberg taking obvious pleasure in exploring new tangents with familiar Pavement-esque flair.

Expansive -- though occasionally oddball -- arrangements flirt with various textures including country ("A Treasure @ Silver Bank") and prog/metal ("History of the River"). Buried in the cryptic wordplay are enough veiled references to his former band (and the mystique surrounding it) to keep old fans guessing.

But where the album scores its biggest hits are in the unguarded moments of translucence where irony falls away, revealing an eminently likable and interesting personality (as on "Doping for Gold" and the gorgeous "Monkey Heart and the Horses' Leg"). Until now, it has been sorely underused.

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