I’ve said….that… Pavement… is my favorite band (often sealed with the follow up: of all time) for about 10 years now. So when it comes to their putting out a Best-Of retrospective, it becomes an event both giddy and touchy – for my zealousness will refuse to disregard that I (and a close friend) have, in fact, traded our own versions of CD-R assembled “best of’s” over the years, that have mined and gutted the deepest caverns of their canon.
At the same time, I am fully aware that, for I and for many, many others, especially of the certain breed of 20-something scrawny white kids who spend 3-9 hours of their week blogging about their favorite music, this is at least a little close to the tinge of freaked up excitement and anticipation (particularly paired with their reunion tour) of that of longtime brown-robe-wearing hockey-haired Star Wars fans lining up for The Phantom Menace. I know, we’re a type – we’ve all gathered at the beacon of Pitchfork’s Pavement pews in a sanctimonious bow and reverent prayer to their 5 albums of the 1990s (4 of which have been re-released with bevies of b-sides with the 5th on the way), their EPs (most of which get one-entry nods on this best-of) and to now, where their career-long home, Matador Records, offered fans a ‘Guest the Track List’ contest in run up to the Best-Of’s release.
Well, what else were we supposed to do? They weren’t making new records…and Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus’ output with the Jicks was too 70’s psyche-rock heavy, while still appreciated, it didn’t feed our Pavement fix, nor did Pavement first mate and co-founder Scott Kanneberg’s admittedly Date-With-Ikea-flavored space-country twangs take us back completely. All we had were those records – those EPs and those 5 LPs. Perhaps that aided their steady and eventual deification in the eyes of the internet-hipstoids and those subtly apathetic and overly arty suburban-indie-rocker identifiers – that…like the Bible or the output of the Sex Pistols, Beatles, The Raincoats, Elliott Smith, take-your-pick – it, for the longest time, 11 years, had a definite end-point. You returned to the old records like home movies and you’d get to the point where there was no film left. You just had to keep returning to the same fluttering images of barbecues and skateboards and bow-and-arrow-slinging Santa’s – Pavement was, essentially, a fix.
You went through your Pavement phases twice a year, probably Spring and Autumn, where you would return to their records, drown yourself, gorge yourself, grin and sigh and move on to a new release by a new band, something else by someone else who was still putting some other things out. Pavement was dead.
But now they’re alive again. And the zombie has been ascribed a “Best-Of…” –whereas so many of us were ready to write our own eulogies for them, (clearly, as the Matador “contest” demonstrates). But…I didn’t want my essay to come to this…but in some ways, for the younger audiences, those still yet in their mid-20’s, the ones who only came to musical awareness after the Pixies broke up or after Pavement broke up…or in other cases, after Soundgarden broke up – and nonetheless nurtured an appreciation that quickly grew into a smitten fervor…now, these fans can live in a world where their savior has returned to earth, they can touch it, see it… I didn’t want it to come to this, as I said, but, yes, sometimes we get minor Christ-like returns each time this happens (and its been happening more and more lately) at least when you compare the record geek fawning over his record sleeves (be they reissues or not) at home to the priest who rereads/re-contemplates his Bible pages.
Shit, maybe that’s too intense.
But now ya’ll new Pitchfork priests gotta get used to a new world with Pavement and a world where you didn’t get to arrange your Best-Of sermon.
So what’s the verdict? How telling is it that their last proper release, 1999’s Terror Twilight appears considerably snubbed – with only one entry amongst the 23 tracks – whilst the often higher-touted first two releases (for fair reason) and even as late as 1997’s Brighten The Corners gets multiple, if-not-5 entries. I bring this up for two reasons – Terror Twilight was always seen as a swing for the “major leagues” fences of the mainstream – a cleaner, smoother, poppier record (save a few considerably dark and creepy moments), and secondly, because my close ally whom I traded those CD-R’s with would not only flag it as his favorite Pavement record, but also, possibly his favorite record of all-time!
So I have to wonder – after 11 years of Pavement purgatory, of its current and new fans “waiting” in that re-treaded void where “everything’s ending” back and forth and back again – have we, as a Pavement cult, not come to terms with this record and finally acknowledged it’s unappreciated gems – from the epic rock-n-roller “Speak See Remember” to the grinning sunny buoyancy of “..And Carrot Ropes” to my ally’s personal fav “You Are A Light”?
Maybe not. Maybe it’s standard Pavement protocol to continue to only nod at this record.
At least all the records get their nod, by record’s end.
But one has to wonder if the fervor would have flared as strongly as it has, in the last few months of this Best-Of’s release, all the way back to the gestation of new fan’s appreciations in the 99-2009 window – had the band never broken up in the first place and kept on making records. Finiteness births preciousness, births a special kind of value and love. And, that does, in a small way, contribute to Pavement…
But, being a Pavement cult officer – I have to say that I definitely said hurray when the Cartoon Talk Show Host Space Ghost (Space Ghost Coast to Coast) jokingly introduced them as “…The Beatles.” That sums up how I and a lot of us felt…
But then, maybe you’re able to just take Pavement for what they were – a good band. And maybe you don’t think this hard about it – for that I envy you. Because it means you didn’t waste about an hour writing this…But, maybe you still wasted 10 minutes reading it…
“So much style that it’s wasting…”
Quarantine The Past - by Pavement - on Matador
1. Gold Soundz (CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN)
2. Frontwards (WATERY, DOMESTIC EP)
3. Mellow Jazz Docent (PERFECT SOUND FOREVER EP)
4. Stereo (BRIGHTEN THE CORNERS)
5. In The Mouth A Desert (SLANTED & ENCHANTED)
6. Two States (SLANTED & ENCHANTED)
7. Cut Your Hair (CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN)
8. Shady Lane / J Vs. S (BRIGHTEN THE CORNERS)
9. Here (SLANTED & ENCHANTED)
10. Unfair (CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN)
11. Grounded (WOWEE ZOWEE)
12. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (SLANTED & ENCHANTED)
13. Range Life (CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN)
14. Date w/ IKEA (BRIGHTEN THE CORNERS)
15. Debris Slide (PERFECT SOUND FOREVER EP)
16. Shoot The Singer (1 Sick Verse) (WATERY, DOMESTIC EP)
17. Spit On A Stranger (TERROR TWILIGHT)
18. Heaven Is a Truck (CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN)
19. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite At :17 (SLANTED & ENCHANTED)
20. Embassy Row (BRIGHTEN THE CORNERS)
21. Box Elder (SLAY TRACKS 1933-1969 EP)
22. Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence (NO ALTERNATIVE COMP)
23. Fight This Generation (WOWEE ZOWEE)