I’m a big fan of the ’90s college rock scene, as can be evidenced by my previous write-ups on Bee Thousand, Doolittle, and The Lonesome Crowded West. These bands all played a large role in defining alternative music and what college radio stations were expected to play and look for from that point forward, and Pavement might just be the most important one from the group because of what a stereotypical college group they were. Pavement is Lo-Fi rock which came across as cool, and the band today is still the topic of debate about just how good they actually were between diehard fans and critics who call them talentless. One thing that helps their legacy for sure is how they left their impression on the music scene both in the mid 90’s and today, inspiring current artists with qualities that began on their 1992 debut album Slanted & Enchanted.
Most Pavement conversations are about their most accessible and pop-like album in Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain which contains many of the best Pavement songs including the famed “Gold Soundz”, but Slanted & Enchanted does a better job of capturing the raw lo-fi qualities of Pavement that made them cool in the first place. It works for a lot of reasons, number one being that the guitars in Pavement songs have very distinct roles, like in the album opener “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”. When you look at this track you see that the song starts immediately in full force, and that for the entire song the lead guitar only plays when the vocals are absent, trading off turns in the spotlight and playing the song from a different point of view in many ways.
A second reason why Pavement works is because of their lead singer Stephen Malkmus, and how his untraditional vocal spacing and sometimes non-sensical lyrics have a knack for fitting the music remarkably well. The song “Loretta’s Scars” is told in an extremely paced manner throughout, highlighted in the chorus, but it would sound wrong any other way at this point as it’s become one of those off qualities that defines the track.
A final reason I’d like to discuss about why I do like Pavement a lot and credit them is that they didn’t get known as the band they are because they wrote “Cut Your Hair” twenty times, a lot of times they wrote about depressing or weird topics but people still grew to love the sound.
Pavement officially broke up in 1999 in a not-so-clean fashion, but the band seems to be on good terms now and did a reunion/farewell tour in 2010. Malkmus joined a new band very soon after Pavement named Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and they’re still a band today who released an album in 2011 named Mirror Traffic.
Track Picks: Summer Babe (Winter Version), Loretta’s Scars, Zurich is Stained