I came to Pavement late via their 1999 Terror Twilight album which turned out to be their last, followed ten years later by this compilation covering their slanted and enchanted history from 1989 to 1999. Clearly that marks me out as not being a true fan, merely passing through, and subject to the same amount of derision and dismissiveness that might behalf someone who said that the similarly radio-friendly This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was their favourite Manic Street Preachers album. For example.
Pavement are one of those low-fi American indie bands, whatever “low-fi” is meant to mean. Underproduced mainly, and with fuzzy grungy guitars. They sound like your favourite university student band. The ones that never grew up, nor ever made it big. Except Pavement did have a hit of sorts with Cut Your Hair, but nothing that was ever likely to bother the Grammy nominee lists.
But who needs ‘hits’ when you’ve got a voice as distinctive as Stephen Malkmus and the meandering sound of a band not trying too hard to accompany it. Shady Lane is a good example of Malkmus’ interesting approach to vocals and lyrics. And it’s this (at least for me) that make Pavement special. That, and the lovely chiming guitar lines that occur more often as they age and are what first attracted me to Terror Twilight.
Other songs to look out for on this 2010 comp, which isn’t quite definitive, but certainly acts as a good primer for the band, are Stereo, Range Life, Two States – which sounds a bit like The Fall in a more mellow moment than usual – and Spit on a Stranger. It’s missing the rather brilliant Carrot Rope, but otherwise contradicts Malkmus’ lyrics in the first track, Gold Soundz, to prove that you can indeed “quarantine the past”.
Best Bits: Shady Lane/J vs S – reinventing the concept of a ‘song’
Genre: Low-fi American Indie Rock
Like This, Try This: Becoming your own new favourite university student band