With its former frontman Stephen Malkmus releasing his new band’s latest album Wig Out at Jagbags last week, now seems like as good a time as any to reflect on what I must admit is my favorite band of all time, Pavement. Defined by its simultaneous irreverence, apathy, and emotionality, Pavement was quietly one of the most influential acts of the 90’s, moving sound away from grunge while impacting groups as pop-minded as Blur and Radiohead. Critic Robert Christgau called them “the finest band of the nineties.” Pitchfork.com’s staff named their song “Gold Soundz” off of their second album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain the best song of the 90’s.
They are not, however, a band that has really stayed in the public consciousness, and I think that should change. People tend to reflect on the 90’s with nostalgia, especially those– ironically enough– that can barely even remember them. And yet one of the things I like about Pavement is that their music serves as a kind of reminder of the constancy of American life. Things change, but they don’t. And that is a simultaneously terrifying and comforting notion. Disillusionment with the pretenses of American adult life, the disappointment of a lackluster professional life, sarcastic cynicism mixed with an earnest hope for emotional honesty, a complicated sense of apathy, one compromised by an emotional compass, by intelligence– Pavement is as much a band for today as it was for the 1990’s. Now, however, the music’s dissonant qualities and lyrical nonsense no longer serve as a way of shaking the nation from its lethargic acceptance of a prosperous though potentially unfulfilling life, but as a reflection of economic chaos, social upheaval, and the individual’s inability to find stable ground in an increasingly unstable world.
Below is their track “Gold Soundz.” For a while this was my favorite song of theirs. I know longer have one, though. It has become too hard to choose. I’ve always liked this song’s brevity, though. There is so much movement and depth that you can hardly believe it’s under three minutes. More than that, though, I’ve always liked the way the Stephen Malkmus’ voice cracks when he delivers his lines, especially in the last verse. Its unbridled emotion in conveying the complex sense of happiness and grief in something as simple as beer in August with a girl you like is something that the lyrics themselves could never capture alone. I hope you like the song.