I got tingles in all the right places when word started to spread this week that the long-defunct indie rock outfit Pavement would likely be reuniting in September 2010 for a benefit show in New York City. If it happens, rest assured--I will be there.
This news is extra-exciting for me because I never got a chance to see the band play live before it disbanded in 2000. In the intervening years, the output of singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus, guitarist Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg, bassist Mark Ibold, multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich, and drummer Steve West (keep on truckin' wherever you are, original hippie burn-out drummer Gary West) has only grown in stature in the eyes of both myself and indie-dom at large. Anytime you hear a singer laconically throw together a string of words that takes three listens to truly grok, or a band ply deceptively ramshackle, sneakily emotional slacker rock, you have Pavement to thank. And the ubiquitous rock-crit term "angular" may as well have been invented to describe Malkmus and Co.'s whole je ne sais quoi.
If you're familiar with the band, you're probably as excited about the news as I am. If you're not, take a listen to any of the following ten songs--my picks for Pavement's Ten Best. Tell me what you think in the comments section.
1. "Grounded": In terms of influence, Pavement's greatest achievement may have been one of attitude. If they didn't invent the smart-guy slacker indie-rock aesthetic, they certainly perfected it. But don't overlook the musical kick-assery. With its alternately mournfully chiming and thickly arcing guitar lines, "Grounded," from 1995's Wowee Zowee, works on a wholly visceral level.
2. "Spit on a Stranger": Found on the band's underrated 1999 swan song Terror Twilight, "Spit" floats from an elegiac, ringing opening to a woozy end, and in doing so perfectly captures a vibe of post-collegiate aimlessness.
4. "Cut Your Hair": This MTV fave from 1993's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain marries a giddy ooh-ooh vocal refrain with snarky references to the music biz. "No big hair!"
5. "Rattled by the Rush": More Wowee Zowee, as some seriously heavy guitar riffing and one of Malkmus's most infectiously ping-ponging melodies propel this one forward.
6. "Serpentine Pad": Pavement were funny. This brief blart of a song, sung by Kannberg and also from Wowee Zowee, is a charmingly snotty bit of indie brattishness.
7. "Summer Babe": Noisy pop bliss from the band's 1992 debut Slanted And Enchanted.
8. "Shady Lane": Once, when I was but a lowly intern, I was sitting at a desk with a co-worker and we spontaneously broke out into the line, "Oh my god, oh your god, oh his god, oh her god" from this joyous goof of a song (Also found on Brighten The Corners). And haven't you at some point felt like you've been chosen as "An extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life?"
9. "Major Leagues": I can totally understand why Malkmus's opaque wordplay and to-the-manner born delivery might be off-putting to some, but he never gets enough credit for his melodic beauty and perceptive wit. This moving song, from Terror Twilight, is the one to play for people who think of Pavement as merely a bunch of smart-alecks.
10. "Father To A Sister Of Thought": Another shimmering beauty from Wowee Zowee, this gentle ambler features an absolutely gorgeous pedal steel solo before departing with a funky little guitar tag.
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