5 questions, 15 opinions, a live reunion summary each = a bunch of words about Pavement.
By Alex ‘Danger’ Stewart, Kevin ‘Guantanamo’ Schwitters, and Andy ‘Left-Eye’ Whorehall
One of indie rock’s finest entered the homestretch this month with midwest shows in Chicago and Milwaukee. Our team of core contributors, Danger & Whorehall, teamed up with resident songwriter & sometimes contributor, Schwitters (The Braves / Table & Chairs), to summarize Pavement’s 10 year reunion tour. Each bring a different perspective and a 15 year age gap to the table. Enjoy.
1) Favorite Pavement Album
aD: My heart says Wowee Zowee (largely because Grounded is my favorite song) but my Last.fm account claims the best of comp Quarantine the Past. This confuses my soul.
kS: Wowee Zowee
aW: This is a very difficult question: If I’m in a bad mood, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain always lifts me up; If I wake up in a good mood I know the day has potential to be a lie, a let down, Wowee Zowee always brings me back to gray, where there’s equal good and bad. I love both incredibly. I count on Brighten Your Corners for a few laughs and zone outs while reading, and Slanted & Enchanted always gets me going for long hauls on domestic chores. Terror Twilight has its moments, the best one being the last song, Carrot Rope, a great pop song to end a band’s recorded history. Each record stands tall now, without sounding dated.
2) Favorite Pavement Lyric
aD: My very favorite Pavement lyric is the David Berman penned, In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.” from the opening track of Silver Jews’ third album. 2nd place (and actual Pavement lyric) is the tongue twisting, You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life,” out of Shady Lane (the album version, Brighten Your Corners).
kS: Lip balm on Watery Clay/ Relationships, hey hey hey/you kiss like a rock but you know I need it anyway”
aW: What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy? (I know him and he does!) Well you’re my fact checking cuz.… oh my god, oh his god, oh her god, oh your god, it’s everybody’s God (repeat!)… ecstasy feels so warm inside I am chewing’ screwing’ myself with my hand… our life is about to come away from the mirror in a rainshed generation, fight this generation. So many more.
3) Favorite Pavement Member
aD: No question. Mark Ibold. Sonic Youth and Free Kitten cred not withstanding, he’s impossible to dislike. How can you not have positive feelings for a guy who bounces around the back of the stage grinning sheepishly and occasionally removing his pants?
kS: Mark Ibold
aW: Bob Nastanovich; the heart & soul of Pavement.
4) Favorite Pavement B-Side / Outtake or Non-Album /track
aD: Unseen Power of the Picket Fence. You can’t beat the No Alternative comp. I bathe with the No Alternative comp on weekends. Also, REM.
kS: Unseen Power of the Picket Fence”
aW: No Tan Lines, the double guitar solos, hot damn, bah bahs; you will be my candy striper, junior league or bedpan wiper, convalescent enema essence- I live to be gray, I live to be gray! Come on, he dih int! Yep, he did. This is a great Pavement b-side from the Brighten The Corners sessions.
5) Favorite Post-Pavement Project
aD: The Jicks but mostly only their fourth album, Real Emotional Trash, and largely because of Janet Weiss.
kS: Pig Lib by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (Yes, I know it’s commonly thought of as one of his artistic low-points. I guess I don’t hear what you’re hearing…at all.)
aW: Pig Lib the 2nd solo outing by SM & The Jicks. 1% of 1, the 2nd to last song on this record has kept me coming back to it for years. Plus a hard to find release from the northwest called Marquee Mark, featuring Malkmus and the guys from Silkwork performing covers by Dylan, The Band, Skynard, Byrds, as ‘The Crust Brothers.’ Recorded live at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, it was released on Telemomo Records in 1998.
PAVEMENT: The reunion tour, live thoughts from the midwest shows.
Alex ‘Danger’ Stewart: Chicago, IL (Pitchfork Fest 07/18/10/ and Pritzker Pavillion, 09/13/10)
I have a bit of a frightening admission to make. Pavement never changed my life. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. A lot. But I’ve never thought of my world in the same ‘before & after’ binary that other bands have inspired (ie my life before hearing Sonic Youth and after, etc). A line like, After the glow, the scene, the stage, the set. Talk becomes slow but there’s one thing I’ll never forget,” from Range Life doesn’t urge the world into sharper focus like I suspect it might for some of my friends. I mean, I certainly appreciate it, and every other aspect of Pavement (their wonky melodies, unassuming guitar histrionics, et al) but my enjoyment is not of historic proportions. I like Pavement. A lot. I just don’t know if I’ll ever love them.
Still, I’ve seen Pavement twice this summer. That’s beyond incredible. It’s honestly a completely satisfying reunion in ways that few others have been. We all know they’re doing it for the money but it doesn’t matter because Pavement still does not give a fuck (in the best way). I went to hear the singles and my favorite album tracks and they acquiesced, but Pavement will be damned if they practice beforehand. What more did I expect? In short: nothing. It’s Pavement! They fumbled and restarted the beginning of one song; Ibold bounced around looking gleeful and hugable; Bob Nastanovich fulfilled his role as indie rock’s Flavor Flav; and Malkmus made a bunch of jokes that no one understood. Perfect.
Kevin Schwitters: Milwaukee, WI, Pabst Theater, 9/14/10
On a Tuesday, 100 miles from home, I sat as the lights went dim in that familiar and well beyond welcome way. I was about to hear twenty songs that helped define nearly as many years of my life. I stood. The opening two songs (”Two States” and Gold Soundz” ) felt perfect. I was compelled to look around and see if, like I was, everyone else was having to manage an uncontrollable smile. Twenty songs later–and still smiling–I realized that they could have played any of their songs, in any order, and I would have had the same sore feeling surrounding my cheekbones. Pavement 2010 did more than remind me of why I love their music; they gave me a sharper understanding of what makes them one of my favorite bands. With Pavement, each goofy lyric, crisp chord progression, unorthodox melody, and tongue-in-cheek guitar stunt is as parodic as it is devotional. Pavement knows how silly and how sovereign rock and roll can be. And at this show, they seemed to be enjoying it as much as everyone. There are no other bands who do what Pavement does–we need them back for good!
Andy Whorehall: Milwaukee, WI, Pabst Theater, 9/14/10
You never know how it’s going to go with a reunion tour and generally bands that reunite do it for cash and not for the pure joy of being in a band, together on a bus sharing a sh*tter at the age of 40 something, again. I’d almost forgotten how great Pavement were live, having seen them a few times in Chicago, in the 90s. Their records travel with me everywhere, never sounding dated and always providing new laughs and deep thoughts. I thought I’d seen the finest of finest Pavement gigs already until the christmas lights lit up the Pabst Theater stage and the band ripped through a playful setlist, often triggering many great memories left over from my late teens and early adulthood. It had felt like a lifetime since I heard the country rock solo on Range Life, or Malkmus singing again, this is the city life, let’s talk about leaving from Silent Kit. Spizzle Trunk, a long lost b-side from their second E.P., Demolition Plot J-7, nailed the crowd during the 2nd encore. Most notable, nothing was played from Terror Twilight.
They could have played all night, Milwaukee was theirs to take. The band chugged along playfully, mixing up the pace righteously until saying goodbye. Each member occasionally pausing to look at each other for a smile, a reminder maybe, that this is as good as it gets. 5 guys in their 40s, healthy, a reunion that doesn’t suck. I haven’t smiled for 2 hours plus watching a band live in a very long time. It’s rare to see a band this happy, ironic, joyful, energetic and strangely contempt to play as if they actually enjoyed working for my money, and a permanent smile. I’ve been to a few horrid reunions in life, none left me positively overwhelmed to have been at as this one. Here’s hoping the next 10 years goes quick, and that all 5 stay healthy- the world is a better place with Pavement playing live, and happy. A perfect sound forever, thank you.
Pavement @ Pabst Summer Babe
Pavement @ Pabst Unfair
Pavement @ Pritzkin Range Life