Break the stereo if it’s not broken yet.

When a band get overly hyped, hyped to the point of near-ubiquity (Radiohead, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, No Age, Wavves, etc.) I tend to swing back in the other direction and be absolutely and totally dismissive. “Dan Deacon, more like Crap Crapcon!” This is unfair to those bands, but it is my standard reaction, plain and simple. So I want really hard to say something like “WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT PAVEMENT REUNITING?” but I can’t, except in that hypothetical, not-followed-through-with quotation. Which, to be honest, was a pretty good way to let off some steam.

Because I don’t hate Pavement, and actually, I like Pavement. I think Brighten The Corners and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain are a wonderful, sloppy albums, and I like the stoic finality of Terror Twilight. And I’ll even admit that Pavement were an important band.

Moreso than any other band in the Early 90’s, Pavement brought a fun and looseness back to alternative rock music. I grew up listening to grunge, and I like a lot of grunge, but you have to admit that Grunge is pretty dismal. Pavement were cheery and breezy and not all that concerned with making a point or bringing their audience to tears. You get the feeling, at least for their first four full lengths, that Pavement were about having fun, and making their listeners have fun. This has real value; Pavement were a catalyst of pretty huge proportions in their time and day, and I don’t think our indie rock landscape would be anywhere near the same without them.

But still. People foaming at the mouth and buying tickets a year in advance for a band who wrote Stone Temple Pilots diss tracks, songs about haircuts, love in the summer, dates with (not at, with) Ikea. They’re not bad songs; they’re catchy and all. But oh boy are they they’re insubstantial. And, in the fallout of the drama over “Range Life,” Stephen Malkmus’ only response seemed to be “you’re taking this too seriously.” Fair enough, but if we can’t look to Pavement for sincerity, or it’s meaner twin irony, well, what are we left with? CUE THE STRING OF NONSENSICAL PAVEMENT LYRIC PULL QUOTES!

“I’ve got a secret for you, I cut your angel in two
I left her bleeding and soaked it with a dry sponge”
No Life Singed Her, Slanted and Enchanted

“Blind date with the chancer
We had oysters and dry lancers
When the check arrived we went dutch, dutch, dutch, dutch”
Shady Lane, Brighten The Corners

“Two states!
We want two states
North and south
Two, two states
40 million daggers!”
Two States, Slanted and Enchanted

“Amateur seasalt gatherers colonized
They’re good enough for Conrad Hilton, not good enough for my eyes.”
Fin, Brighten The Corners

“Hey little boy, would you like to know
what’s in my pocket or not
It’s no ploy, it’s no gimmick,
It’s the chance of a lifetime to see
something that’s never seen by mere mortals
(except me!)”
Carrot Rope, Terror Twilight

Well then.

Not-great lyrics don’t mean a not great band/album. I bet if anyone were to that closely at Rain Dogs, they’d see a whole buncha posturing and second rate crime stories. (I’m too scared to do it, because I love Rain Dogs). But that album works because Tom Waits has a voice that could sell ice to an eskimo, and wrote an album full of songs which are actually menacing, deep breathing creatures that just crawled outta the dark. And the Pixies do it to (Everyone chant it with me: “ANDULUCIA!”), but, again, musically they had urgency, and Frank Blacks vocals which sold the whole thing. Pavement have breezy melodies and Stephen Malkmus’ pretty awful singing voice. That’s it.

I think Terror Twilight, the band’s last album contained some really genuine songs, but I think that’s about the extent of it in the Pavement catalog. Again, I don’t hate Pavement. I like Pavement. But I don’t care about Pavement. Does anyone else think that, at this point, we’re giving a hero’s welcome to a bunch of lazy nonsense-spewing stoners who played some decent melodies with a big shit-eating gin on their faces? Here’s one fun but kinda “wait…what?” song, and one of the few tear-jerkers the band ever wrote. In other words, the first one’s silly, the other ones serious.

Unfair” is from Pavement’s album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

Major Leagues” is from Pavement’s album Terror Twilight.

And two of my favorite new acts of last year are both outdoing themselves and releasing a new album THIS year. Here are two good songs from sophomore releases which I can only assume will be as good as these tracks.

The Sound” is from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robison’s upcoming album The Summer of Fear.

Know Better Learn Faster” is the title track from the upcoming Thao and the Get Down Stay Down album Know Better Learn Faster.

2 comments

  1. Neil Cake

    So what’s your point? You like Pavement, but you think Pavement are shit?

    And are you giving those lyric examples as proof that Pavement’s lyrics weren’t great?

    I think some of Pavement’s lyrcis WERE pretty great – it was all about having a fun turn of phrase and magnifying the minutiae of our lives. Sure, they didn’t seem to mean anything, but how can you not be charmed by:

    “you’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life”??

    or…

    “what about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he talks like an ordinary guy..?

    – I know him, and he does”??

    And when you get down to it; how many bands do actually have great lyrics?

    So yes, everyone’s pretty psyched about Pavement reuniting because, as you say yourself:

    “Pavement were a catalyst of pretty huge proportions in their time and day, and I don’t think our indie rock landscape would be anywhere near the same without them.”

    For me, they are one of a very few bands from the 90s whose music I don’t feel has dated. It sounds as cool and fresh today as it did then. You certainly can’t say that about Pearl Jam (for example).

    So, no, I don’t think we’re “giving a hero’s welcome to a bunch of lazy nonsense-spewing stoners who played some decent melodies with a big shit-eating gin on their faces.” For those of us who remember them fondly, it is pretty exciting. We’re just expressing the fact that this makes us happy.

    I will be getting tickets if they announce any UK shows. I just hope they don’t ruin their legacy by recording any new albums.

    • songssavelives

      Neil,

      Always good to read your take things.

      I don’t think Pavement lyrics were terrible, just entirely inconsequential. If I think about a Pavement song for 5 seconds after I finish listening to it, it doesn’t hold up that well. The Geddy Lee line is one that I’ll admit I hold dear.

      Like I tried to make clear (and, I guess, didn’t) anyone can pull random sections of lyrics to make an artist look bad or good; pull quotes are extremely narrow in their scope and almost never represent the best of what a band can do. Imagine if reviewers of Poetry did that.

      But Pavement were the prototypical ramshackle band, more so than Guided by Voices (who I like a lot more than Pavement) or the Pixies or any other early 90s alt-rock act. They were never aiming for big things; they were a small scale band, who, after their breakup got elevated to the heights of indie upper-echelon, I think, more as being a pallet-cleanser than for the songs themselves. I like the band; I just don’t think they’re stellar, is all.

      PS: Good news for you, friend:
      http://www.punknews.org/article/35320

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