I recently told Jessica Yarvin (aka my editor, aka the WIUX blog director, aka internet woman) (ed. note: hi that’s me) that I would listen to 17 hours of Pavement. Why 17 hours? It’s been almost 17 years since their last album. Although at this point I’m not sure if I will listen to all 17 hours in any timely manner, here is a #tbt review to account for the first few hours of listening. I am starting in backwards chronological order with Terror Twilight, which was their 5th and final studio album. It was released in the summer of 1999 and was produced by Nigel Godrich who also produced Beck’s The Information, Warpaint’s self-titled, and was involved on several Radiohead albums. Hailing from California, Pavement is made up of Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kannberg, Mark Ibold, Steve West and Bob Nastonovich.
I thought an energetic rock song was starting, but then it got sucked up into a hole in the ocean, and a chill soft acoustic song replaced it. That was the first 5 seconds of “Spit on a Stranger” the opening track on Terror Twilight. Sure there is more to the song, but I restarted the track at least 4 times to ensure that I was accurate in thinking that the rock got sucked down the drain, but in a really cool and innovative way. “You Are a Light” breakdowns mid song into a collective of guitar fuzz and picking that feels like falling in pleasant confusion. A favorite from the album is “Major Leagues” which is a slow ballad that sings “You kiss like a rock but you know I need it anyway”. The end of “Major Leagues” is just as bizarre feelings as the beginning of “Spit on a Stranger” with a sporadic drum solo-esc ending accounting for the last 20 seconds.
The album feels like the songs your best friends would sing around a campfire only in your faded memory. It is confidently their own, and encouragingly alt-rock. Like something vaguely on the edge of something with which you might be familiar but that you’re still slowly grasping for, like a familiar face who you’ve forgotten their name. In their review of the album Pitchfork said “I’m not so rash as to call Pavement “The American Radiohead”-– such a comparison would be sonically and chronologically flawed, as well as maddeningly clichéd”. But for over a decade – across an ocean and an entire continent – Pavement and Radiohead where exemplary lights of fantastic alternative music.
Rolling Stone’s review of the album summed up the thesis of Terror Twilight as “Things hurt, and growing up is hard, but kissing helps”. I can completely get on board with that message, though it took a second listen to get that from the tracks on this 1999 album. There is so much going on sonically. The first time around all you can do is soak in the music, only after that you can listen to the lyrics. In Terror Twilight Pavement had created one last indie opus that is the most polished of all their albums.
Pavement reunited briefly in 2010 after the release of their compilation album Quarantine The Past: The Best of Pavement for a short tour that included a set on the Colbert Report and a set on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Although they are on good terms there seems to be no inclination to reunite again to create new music. Yet they continue to create music, many members have started or joined the touring acts of bands like Sonic Youth, Silver Jews, and Preston School of Industry.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to Pavement, really listen to them, you should. Turn on Terror Twilight, shut off the lights, and stare at the ceiling. You won’t regret it.
Here is Pavement’s “Major League”, which features them frolicking on a mini golf course and home video style videos.
Track listing is as follows:
- Spit on a Stranger
- Folk Jam
- You Are A Light
- Cream of Gold
- Major Leagues
- Platform Blues
- Ann Don’t Cry
- Speak, See, Remember
- The Hexx
- ..And Carrot Rope
TL;DR — Listen to Pavement