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
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
–Carrot Rope, Terror Twilight
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.
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.