Pavement – The Albums

by Nick Calvino (Environmental Studies), published June 27th 2010

‘€œRighteous trash.’€

‘€œPleasingly discordant.’€

‘€œEloquently bratty.’€

‘€œThey’re a band.’€

These are responses given to me from various friends of mine upon being asked to describe Pavement in three words or less. And I couldn’t agree with them more.

Pavement has been synonymous with a certain reputation in music circles.  Some may adore them and others may just not get it.  In either case, they are a band that sticks with you.

When I first began listening to Pavement, it was after years of seeing the name pop up in various locations: a friend’s iPod, a poster in High Fidelity, reviews of reissued albums, etc.  When I began to see a pattern, it just seemed like giving them a listen was the logical thing to do.  I hardly expected to hear what some have deemed ‘€œthe most important band of the 90s.’€

The band’s mix of poetry, melody and indie rock aesthetic proved to be a most successful formula.  Singer/main songwriter Stephen Malkmus’s lyrics may come off as nonsensical at first, but underneath that initial abstraction lies some of the most poignant poetry in music.  The music of the songs has the ability to either be touching or just plain rockin’.  And of course, multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich’s humorous accents gave the music a comedy that everyone can comfortably chuckle at.

Pavement formed in 1989 as a project of old friends Stephen Malkmus and Scott ‘€œSpiral Stairs’€ Kannberg, who recorded their first demos with eccentric local hippie/studio owner Gary Young.  After these demos, the release of their first album, Slanted and Enchanted, saw the addition of Nastanovich and early Pavement fan Mark Ibold on bass.  It’s worth noting that Nastanovich joined mainly to provide rhythmic accompaniment, as Young was prone to erratic onstage antics such as random headstands and handing out various foods.  This ultimately led to his eviction from the band.

The next and last drummer of Pavement, Steve West, then came on board in time for the band’s next album.  Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was not only a more polished sound but also garnered the band modest media airplay and major label interest.  However, the band decided to stick with renowned indie label Matador Records (who currently host bands such as Yo La Tengo, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists).  The album also fostered a minor feud with Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan, due to a name drop perceived as spiteful.

Nevertheless, the band continued on for several years releasing three more acclaimed albums:  Wowee Zowee, Brighten the Corners, and Terror Twilight). However, like with most bands, tensions arose and the band eventually broke up in 1999 for various reasons.  Even this could not stop the growth of their loving fan base, as many had been speculating about a possible reunion of the band.

With that being said, the time has finally come– After years of ultra-deluxe reissues, various solo projects and mutual endeavors, Pavement is back.  They have announced the release of a greatest hits compilation and an international reunion tour including a fall 2010 four night stand at New York City’s Central Park Summerstage, headlining spots at Coachella and Toronto Island Concert, and the job of curators for an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England.

The albums!

Slanted and Enchanted (1992)- The debut album featuring S.M. (Stephen Malkmus) and Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg) and co.  Although not as audibly smooth as their later albums, it showcases not potential’€¦but rather songs pulling from punk, noise and indie rock veins.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)- Polished sophomore release featuring the final band lineup for the first time.  Much more accessible to some, and even spawned some minor hits.  Just as passionate nevertheless.

Wowee Zowee (1995)- A much more eclectic collection of songs that features some acoustic numbers.  The band begins to touch on more depressing topics, but too lightly to call the album a downer.

Brighten the Corners (1996)- A more ‘€œmainstream’€ sounding album than the others, but that still has their signature spark.  One track, ‘€œShady Lane’€, was actually used as the name for a teenage DJ on Canadian television show Radio Free Roscoe (Yeah!).

Terror Twilight (1999)- The band’s final release, named by Bob Nastanovich whilst describing the most dangerous time to drive.  Features a harmonica performance by none other than Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (as it was produced by their producer Nigel Godrich).

Slanted and Enchanted: 4.6/5

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: 5/5

Wowee Zowee: 4.3/5

Brighten the Corners: 4.5/5

Terror Twilight: 4/5

3 Responses to “Pavement – The Albums”

  1. Kate Bush says:

    “Nevertheless, the band continued on for several years releasing three more acclaimed albums: Wowee Zowee, Brighten the Corners, and Terror Twilight”

    You’re information is just plain wrong! Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is thier most critically acclaimed album, with Slanted and Enchanted not far behind as music critics “look back” and realize what a catalyst the album was for lo-fi music and indie music in general. Wowee Zowee is more of a fan favorite, while the last two albums are recognized as “eh” by most music critics and fans alike.

    By the way, the only thing to say when someone asks to to describe Pavement in three words or less: Pavement ist Rad. ;) ;) Or maybe : Septemeber 18!

  2. Kate Bush says:

    “Nevertheless, the band continued on for several years releasing three more acclaimed albums: Wowee Zowee, Brighten the Corners, and Terror Twilight”

    You're information is just plain wrong! Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is thier most critically acclaimed album, with Slanted and Enchanted not far behind as music critics “look back” and realize what a catalyst the album was for lo-fi music and indie music in general. Wowee Zowee is more of a fan favorite, while the last two albums are recognized as “eh” by most music critics and fans alike.

    By the way, the only thing to say when someone asks to to describe Pavement in three words or less: Pavement ist Rad. ;) ;) Or maybe : Septemeber 18!

    • Kyle Risley says:

      Wowee Zowee
      Allmusic – 4.5/5
      Pitchfork – 9.3/10
      Robert Christgau – A

      Brighten The Corners
      Allmusic -4/5
      Pitchfork – 8.6/10
      Robert Christgau – A

      Terror Twilight
      Allmusic – 4/5
      Pitchfork – 9.2/10
      Robert Christgau – A-

      I would say all of Pavement’s albums received critical acclaim, not simply a cult following, in addition to their immeasurable influence on the landscape of lo-fi and indie rock. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted will remain their pivotal albums, but to say their subsequent albums received a lukewarm critical reception could not be farther from the truth. I do appreciate your comment though and thanks for taking interest in the accuracy of our content. It is truly appreciated.