okay, i should warn you up front that i’m going to talk about pavement. so if you don’t want to read about pavement, or you’re tired of hearing me go on and on about pavement, you should stop reading now. because now i’m going to talk about pavement.
pavement; from stockton, CA; formed in the late 80’s; released independent eps on drag city; recorded epochal first album slanted and enchanted which, on the strength of a pre-release unmarked cassette, became spin magazine’s surprise album of the year for 1992 before it was even released.
they had the unfortunate bad timing to get picked up by the cultural radar at about the same time as the ‘slacker’ concept, which is a misnomer when applied to this band. they more accurately embody sprezzatura, that is, the doing of something gracefully and expertly, but made to look effortless or ‘tossed-off.’ pavement’s guitar workouts, elliptical figures, surf-drenched harmonies, fat chord structures and studied non-sequitors are not the work of amateurs or even savants, but absolute masters.
i happen to personally believe that i hear more evidence in new-millenium rock of pavement’s influence than i do of nirvana’s. nevermind may have rushed in the cultural zeitgeist, but slanted and enchanted was the turtle to kurt cobain’s hair.
listen to pavement: from the john peel sessions after their first album, here’s here (mp3), and from their final album, terror twilight, the lilting spit on a stranger (mp3). these are but bookends to their career. many would choose their sophomore triumph crooked rain, crooked rain as the album of the decade, and they certainly achieved their most commercial success with the single ‘cut your hair’ (video here). i return to brighten the corners with regularity, not only for the back-to-back opening stunners ‘stereo’ (“hey, listen to me, i’m on the stereo stereo, my baby gave me malaria, hysteria”) and ‘shady lane’ (“oh my god, oh your god, oh his god, oh her god, it’s everybody’s god”), but for the best ever hard-rocker about international relations, ’embassy row’ (“…men in dashikis and their leftist weeklies…”).
pavement broke up some number of years ago now, but the two principal songwriters, stephen malkmus and spiral stairs (in that order) went on to solo projects: malkmus heads the jicks, and spiral is now the preston school of industry. for my money, malkmus was always the man behind the music, and his jicks albums get better and better: listen to ‘us‘ and ‘(do not feed the) oysters‘ (both mp3s) from his latest, pig lib. spiral stairs (nee scott kannberg) is releasing a new album, monsoon shortly; he collaborated with wilco on ‘get your crayons out,’ which is an okay track.
matador records plans to re-release crooked rain, crooked rain soon, giving it the deluxe treatment, with all the bells and whistles and extra tracks. if you haven’t ever bit the pavement, that would be a great introduction, i’m sure.
we now return to your regularly scheduled program.