Rediscovering Pavement

Anticipation for the Pavement reunion at Coachella has put the band into increased rotation for me as of late, and I’m loving them even more than I did way back when. I’d still break out Crooked Rain or Slanted and Enchanted every couple of months, but that was about it. Now I’m devouring everything like when it was new. (And some of it is new, as I finally splurged for the Luxe & Reduxe and LA’s Desert Origins re-issues.)

Below is a rambly recounting of my history with Pavement.

I first discovered Pavement right before Slanted and Enchanted was released in 1992. Read a review in Entertainment Weekly that started off with “Mmmmm….pop music” and was sold without ever hearing a track. (2 other discoveries based solely on EW reviews: Paw and Tool. I think Pavement wins…). Even though the album is so familiar to me now, it’s one of those discs where every time feels like the first time if that makes any sense. I used “Wounded Kite at :17” as one of the TP chapter titles, and it’s still the one I’m most proud of name checking.

Seeking out the Watery, Domestic EP and the EP collection Westing (By Musket and Sextant) at Newbury Comics delved me deeper into the obsessive fandom that’s become my trademark over the years (see also: Carter USM, M. Ward, LOST, etc.) Once I heard “Box Elder” and “Shoot the Singer” there was no turning back.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was probably one of the most highly anticipated albums of my youth (after In Utero & Vs.). I recall being sick as a dog the day it came out and my girlfriend at the time had to hit multiple record stores in order to find me a copy. This has been my go-to Pavement record over the years, and holding the reissue in my hands I’m still impressed by the “Front: reign reign” word game hint in the lower right hand corner. Brilliant album title.

Wowee Zowee came out during the second semester of my freshman year of college. I don’t 100% remember if I waited in line to buy it at midnight (I think I did), but I do recall my first listen in my study carol/closet and many late night discussions over the disc with my friend Chris Evjy. (Chris did a pretty nifty cover of “Father To A Sister of Thought” at open mike nights and eventually live on my college radio show.) I also fondly remember quoting “Brinx Job” in an all-staff email at iNetNow after we (allegedly, and unfortunately falsely) got “funded.” When Wowee first came out I was iffy on it as a whole. Some songs were great, some just ok. But my future self is now appreciating it as what might be the best and most diverse of the band’s five albums.

The two times I saw Pavement live were both from the Wowee era. First was May 15, 1995 at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence. Nobody wanted to go with me, but I managed to drag Alane and Jon Mack kicking and screaming. (As Jon recalls it, I agreed to see Primus if he’d see Pavement.) Setlist was very Wowee heavy, though I remember “Two States” and “Range Life” with a changed lyric that went “Out on tour with Six Finger Satellite / I don’t really know what they mean but they’re…from here.”

Later that same year they played Lollapalooza. This was the first year they moved the New England stop from the Quonset Point air-field to the lamer and tamer Great Woods in Mansfield, MA. My memory on this show is extremely hazy overall, though I want to say there was a kick-ass version of “Flux=Rad” played.

Brighten The Corners was another remnant of my college daze, this time from junior year. I kinda sorta liked it but never really listened to it all that much, and as such got temporarily derailed from the Pavement wagon as a result. I have no idea why. It’s certainly a solid endeavor. Perhaps just not rockin’ enough for my tastes at the time.

Which leads to a confession: I listened to Terror Twilight for the very first time last week, over a decade after its initial release. Somewhat embarrassing to love a band so much and then nearly go cold turkey by the time their swan song comes around, though I’m making up for it now with both this and the reissues.

Ah, the reissues. Box sets and bonus tracks are tough when you’re a b-sides junkie who already had most of the material the first time around. But Matador really got this one right. Enough new material to make them worthwhile, and a price that can’t be beat. The CDs are $14, where the downloads are $16 for normal quality, $20 for high. Hmmm — save money and get a 40+ page book of liner notes…sold!

Perhaps I’ll review (elevate?) these later…

That’s enough reminiscing for now. I’ll end with a quote by one of my new obsessions, Benji Hughes:

“I’m into Pavement they’re my favorite band I’ve got their DVD I watch it 50 times — you love it baby!”