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It Started With A Mix

Pavement: Selecting The Best For One Side Of A C90
David McNamee , January 5th, 2009 04:46

David McNamee trawls his dusty racks for gems by American indie overlords Pavement to make up a compilation for one side of a cassette.

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PAVEMENT

From: Stockton, California, USA

Genres: Indie rock; lo-fi; noise pop

Years active: 1989-1999

Associated acts: Gary Young’s Hospital; Marble Valley; Preston School Of Industry; Silver Jews; Sonic Youth; Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Members: Stephen Malkmus (vocals/guitar); Bob Nastanovich (percussion); Scott Kanberg (guitar/vocals); Steve West (drums); Mark Ibold (bass)

Albums: Slanted and Enchanted (1992); Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994); Wowee Zowee (1995); Brighten The Corners (1997); Terror Twilight (1999)

SIDE A

1. 'Major Leagues' (from Terror Twilight, 1999)
“They wear you down sometimes/Kids like wine/Magic Christians chew the rind”
On November 20 1999 in Brixton, Pavement played their final ever gig. Frontman Stephen Malkmus had a pair of handcuffs attached to his microphone stand. "These symbolize what it's like being in a band all these years." A couple of weeks later, Domino Records issued a statement to the press reading: “Pavement are retiring for the forseeable future to: 1. Start families 2. Sail around the world 3. Get into the computer industry 4. Dance 5. Get some attention."

2. 'Stereo' (from Brighten The Corners, 1997)
“I’m on the stereo!/Stereo!/Oh my baby baby baby baby baby babe gave me malaria!/Hy-ster-ia-ha!”
Some days, a lot of Pavement songs make me want to hurt my iPod. At other times the same songs make me feel full of California sunshine, drunk and giggling, looking at the world like it’s all on LSD – maybe that’s how the band felt too, like they had to write down every thought they had in those see-through-time moments to remember how ridiculous all stuff is.
‘Stereo’ is a song that corkscrews right to the heart of the love/hate thing. Coming around at a time when the likes of Barenaked Ladies, Smash Mouth, Cake, Weezer and Ween were floating about in the charts, its carefully-quirky words and college rock cuteness were a heartbeat away from stone-cold WACKY.

3. 'Gold Soundz' (from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994)
“So drunk in the August sun/And you’re the kind of girl I like/Because you’re empty and I’m empty/And you can never quarantine the past”
The sound of ‘Gold Soundz’ is so blissful and fast and heart-in-mouth melancholic. Lines jump out at you, that are surface-sentimental, that fit the flow of the music and that the listener can hook their heart into and take comfort from, while at the same time they are surrounded in enough lyrical gibberish and detritus to prevent them from being anything other than fragments, protected from the uncool, sappy obviousness of the nostalgia-prizing, relationship-questioning narrative of most contemporaneous indie rock songs.

4. 'Here' (from Slanted and Enchanted, 1992)
“Come join us in a prayer/We'll be waiting, waiting where/Everything's ending here”
Slanted and Enchanted sounds exactly like it looks. Those scars and scrawls of correction fluid and action painting doodling match the itchy-scratchy guitar lines, and Malkmus’ vomited lyrical splurges form a kind of action painting-pop. ‘Here’, though, is a weird poem, right in the middle of the album, sung like a prayer, evoking California heatstroke, listless weekend afternoons and a strange comfort in inertia.

5. 'The Hexx' (from Terror Twilight, 1999)
“God installed that radar in your pointy little beak so you'd return”
It’s the way it glides from so-supertense-it-must-be-angry Slint in the verse to the sighing, releasing bridge – Pavement doing visceral for the first time in a way that doesn’t involve punkish amateurism.

6. 'From Now On' (from Perfect Sound Forever EP, 1991)
“Can I see the skin rot?/On a dog’s stray hide, on a dog’s stray hide”
The funny thing about early Pavement is how convincingly in their fuzzed-out-forever amateur-rock you could imagine them as permanently blitzed Californian kids, etching nonsense lyrics as grafitti in the heat-softened asphalt of mall parking lots. In fact, several members were in their 30s, and troubled original drummer Gary Young was even pushing 40 by this point.

7. 'Two States' (from Slanted and Enchanted, 1992)
“Two states!/We want two states!/North and south/Two, two states”
It was songs like this that caused such smouldering long-term resentment from Malkmus’ hero, Mark E. Smith.

8. 'Debris Slide' (from Perfect Sound Forever EP, 1991)
“Wheeze hack cough wheeze hack cough”
Sometimes just a fist-in-the-air two-word fuck-yeah (“Debris slide!”) and a bouncing-bomb of a backing vocal (“Ba-ba-baba-ba!”) makes everything alright forever.

9. 'We Dance' (from Wowee Zowee, 1995)
“Chim chim chim sing a song of praise/For your elders”
Wowee Zowee is Pavement’s White Album. Just the A-side of this double-album, kicking off with ‘We Dance’, has them proficiently if distractedly running through every form of music available to them.

10. 'Grounded' (from Wowee Zowee, 1995)
“Doctors leaving for the holiday season/Got crystal ice picks, no gift for the gab”
‘Grounded’, musically, could be Pavement’s purest moment. Scott Kannberg’s guitar pulls hard on the song, forcing it up into the air, banking drunkenly and nose-diving hard in a way that makes you feel dreamy and queasy.

11. 'Fillmore Jive' (from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994)
“I'd like to invite you to a taste of my chalice/It's a special one, it's made of gold”
Crooked Rain… introduced a teasingly petulant lyrical mode for Pavement. In Range Life Malkmus tried to cop the diss-loving throwdowns of hip-hop in amusingly abstract slights against Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins. ‘Cut Your Hair’ plays with notions of industry faddishness and ‘Fillmore Jive’ has Malkmus listing and dismissing every rockist subculture tribe, tartly reminding them that it’s goodnight for rock & roll and he needs to sleep.

12. 'Raft' (b-side to ‘Range Life’ single, 1994)
“Stimulate the open chords”
The b-side to “our ‘Hotel California’”, not quite as classic yet, weirdly, more commercial. A love song?

13. 'Shady Lane (Krossfader)' (from ‘Shady Lane’ single, 1997)
“Blind date with a chancer, we had oysters and dry lancers/And the cheque, when it arrived, we went dutch, dutch, dutch”
A great example of how Pavement, when they did bother to make perfect pop sounds, really had a knack for hitting on spine-tingling melodies. Malkmus does an almost Shaggs-y thing of harmonising vocal and guitar runs, while babbling out a vignette from a hotel restaurant. A top 40 hit over here, two months after the Pavement-like ‘Beetlebum’ had hit number 1.

SIDE B

  1. Stephen Malkmus – ‘Post-Paint Boy’
  2. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – ‘Cold Son’
  3. Silver Jews – 'We Are Real'
  4. Guided By Voices – 'Hold On Hope'
  5. Sebadoh – 'On Fire'
  6. Built To Spill – 'Carry The Zero'
  7. Olivia Tremor Control – 'The Opera House'
  8. Sonic Youth - ‘Teen Age Riot’
  9. Dinosaur Jnr. – ‘Freak Scene’
  10. Yo La Tengo – ‘Autumn Sweater’

Mike Sav
Jan 5, 2009 10:53am

Zürich is Stained? Texas Never Whispers? Kennel District?

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David McNamee
Jan 5, 2009 2:06pm

yes, Frontwards, Summer Babe, Trigger Cut, Range Life, Cut Your Hair... lots of songs missing. What I like about Pavement is how completely subjective their appeal is. It's almost completely impossible to get any kind of consensus from Pavement fans on what their best songs are... they're a kind of noise-pop rorschach.

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sarah dorman
Jan 5, 2009 8:14pm

i'm glad that someone else thinks that grounded is on of pavement's finest moments. i think the crooked rain version is better than the wowee zowee one. beautiful.

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_____ _____
Jan 5, 2009 8:44pm

"Stop Breathing"?

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