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Pavement (band)

Pavement was one of the key American indie-rock bands of the 1990s, known for its oblique, original style and - at first anyway - for its influential 'lo-fi' recording quality.

The band formed in Stockton, California in 1989 as a studio project of guitarists and vocalists Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg, known originally only as "S.M." and "Spiral Stairs". Their debut EPs Slay Tracks (1933-1969), Demolition Plot J-7 and Perfect Sound Forever were recorded at the studio of drummer Gary Young and consisted of highly unusual and extremely lo-fi songs whose emotion and melody were buried beneath noise and static.

Around 1992 they became a full-time band, with the addition of bassist Mark Ibold and extra percussionist Bob Nastanovich; most of their subsequent songs were written by Malkmus, with a consistent minority coming from Kannberg. Their debut album Slanted and Enchanted appeared in this year and became an indie classic, although Pavement remained more or less a cult band despite the enthusiastic reviews. In particular, songs like the emotional "Summer Babe" and the catchy, witty "Trigger Cut" (both singles) helped make this one of the most influential early '90s guitar records.

After the release of the Watery, Domestic EP, drummer Young was replaced by Steve West. Leaving behind the lo-fi ethic, if not the obliquity, they released the excellent Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in 1994, a record with much more of a pop tradition than the first album. In particular, the single "Cut Your Hair", in the band's closest brush with the mainstream, briefly became an MTV hit. Another song which earned the band attention was "Range Life" (also a single), not so much for its melodic country feel but for a lyric appearing to bait Pavement's contemporaries the Smashing Pumpkins.

Perhaps in reaction to this success, or to the harsh treatment they had received on the 1994 Lollapalooza[?] tour, Pavement's next record was the much more difficult Wowee Zowee (1995). The album's eighteen tracks, which contained no obvious singles (although two were released), covered a bewildering variety of styles from grunge ("Flux=Rad") to country ("Father to a Sister of Thought") to art-noise (countless moments), and the critical press appeared somewhat bemused. With hindsight, however, the record - which is by far the band's most complex - is generally seen as one of their best.

1997's Brighten the Corners was a mellower and more focused record which combined the best elements of the preceding two albums, particularly on the catchy singles "Stereo" and "Shady Lane" and the unusually bleak "Fin". The album also sold somewhat better than before, although Pavement were never very commercially successful.

It was at about this time that the band started to fragment, with band members starting to focus more on other musical projects or on raising a family. However the band remained in good spirits and took the time to continue touring and release an EP, Pacific Trim, beside the album.

The break-up was delayed until 1999, with the relase of their final album Terror Twilight. The eleven songs, all written by Malkmus, brought Pavement's witty and oblique style into the context of folk-rock, and the album is by far their gentlest and most emotionally direct. Although markedly different from the others it was easily of the same quality, and ballads like "Major Leagues" and "Spit on a Stranger" rank among the band's best songs.

The band finally split at the end of the decade: at a gig in London, Malkmus compared the experience of being in a band to being handcuffed, and it gradually became clear afterwards that this was to the band's final performance. Stephen Malkmus has now embarked on a solo career with a band called the Jicks, and has also been involved for many years with the Silver Jews[?]. Scott Kannberg has released material with his new band, Preston School of Industry[?].

Discography

  • Slay Tracks (1933-1969) EP, 1989
  • Demolition Plot J-7 EP, 1990
  • Perfect Sound Forever EP, 1991
  • Slanted and Enchanted, 1992
  • Watery, Domestic EP, 1993
  • Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994
  • Wowee Zowee, 1995
  • Pacific Trim EP, 1996
  • Brighten the Corners, 1997
  • Terror Twilight, 1999

A huge number of Pavement songs are not to be found on these "official" albums, including not only b-sides but also songs which were released on bootlegs, multi-artist compilations or foreign releases, and songs which were only played live.



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