On the 20th anniversary of their biggest album, the long-gone but not forgotten indie rockers Pavement get a new appreciation from one of their biggest fans.
I was seventeen when I first heard Pavement, the irreverent lo-fi Stockton, California indie rockers whom I’d later spend a great deal of time worshipping. My admiration for the band would lead to many a pilgrimage to see them live as well as numerous trips to the big city to track down any and all recordings, be it rarity, B-side, soundtrack contribution, you name it. The 90s were good to my boys Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, Scott Kannberg, Steve West, and Mark Ibold. Slacker anthems like “Cut Your Hair” and “Summer Babe” offered rocking recourse to Grunge and Gangsta Rap and while Pavement officially parted ways in 1999, their members have gone in different directions on their own (Malkmus and the Jicks, for instance, now have an output greater than Pavement’s and just as good) and 2010’s reunion tour yielded a satisfying and striking rapprochement for fans new and old.
Seeing as 2015 marks the 21st anniversary of their sophomore and highest selling release, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, I figured it was as good a time as any to get a little sentimental and nostalgic while spotlighting some of Pavement’s finest irregularities, oddities, and deepest cuts.
10. “No More Kings”
This playful memorial to Saturday morning cartoons is from the Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks tribute compilation from 1996, inspired by the educational animated shorts that the ABC Television Network broadcast throughout the 70s and 80s. Pavement’s contribution is a pleasant merry-go-round on what remains a rather upstanding compilation (other notable acts on the LP include Blind Melon, Folk Implosion, the Lemonheads, and Ween).
9. “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence”
This R.E.M.-inspired track from the Shady Lane 7” was originally released on the AIDS relief compilation album No Alternative in 1993.
8. “The Killing Moon”
Pavement was always known for throwing in a cover song or two in their live sets, often from the likes of The Fall or the Pixies, or in this instance, a straight up salute to Echo and the Bunnymen with their signature song, “The Killing Moon.” This particular B-side first cropped up in the What’s Up Matador compilation in 1997.
7. “Debris Slide”
From the early Pavement catalogue, back to their 1991 Perfect Sound Forever ep in their Drag City days, this is lo-fi pop at its most pleasurable. A lost classic cut.
6. “So Stark (You’re a Skyscraper)”
From the “Trigger Cut” single, this flippant shrill of noise pop, Malkmus’ vocals front and centre, gets a gleaming gold star. This was one of the first Pavement recordings I ever heard, and it was love at first listen.
5. “Painted Soldiers”
From the soundtrack to the very underrated and quite hysterical Kids in the Hall film, Brain Candy, this is far from being a throwaway track, and “Painted Soldiers” oozes slacker charm, the boys even made a playful video for it.
4. “Here (John Peel Session”
Something about this John Peel Session of Pavement’s early Slanted and Enchanted track, “Here” gets everything right. Written by Malkmus and certainly one of the choicest tracks off S & E — certainly responsible for the album’s near universal acclaim—helping to make what Rolling Stone called “the quintessential indie rock album”, “Here” also found its way onto numerous soundtracks including Hal Hartley’s Amateur (1994), The Art of Getting By (2011), and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).
3. “For Sale: The Preston School of Industry”
This awesome oddity, originally for Dutch television in 1997, is a Spiral Stairs (aka Scott Kannberg) showcase, and it’s one of his finest. For a number of years Spiral Stairs would use the moniker Preston School of Industry for his own post-Pavement indie outfit from ’99 to ’04, he also released a solid solo album, The Real Feel, in 2009.
2. “Teenage Piss Party”
This rare Pavement cover, one they’ve been known to trot out sporadically throughout the 90s, is a cover from another Stockton, CA, pop punk act, and obvious influence, the Authorities. This is a mini magnum opus, you betcha.
1. “Baptist Blacktick”
From the “Summer Babe” single this is another early Pavement song that in many ways represents all the enthusiastically shambolic fundamentals of the band. It’s noisy, bratty, artful, lyrically a little insurgent, and is, essentially, the template for tongue-in-cheek, and ironic indie rock. An unheralded classic all the way.