Music / Pavement

Pavement were a Cult Classic indie rock band from Stockton, California, initially active between 1989 and 1999. They were known as the figureheads of the indie rock movement in the USA during the 1990's and one of the Trope Makers for the lo-fi genre alongside Guided By Voices and Sebadoh. The band was one of the first indie rock bands to gain moderate success on Alternative Rock radio with their sole big hit "Cut Your Hair" in 1994.

Its members were:
  • Stephen Malkmus ("SM") - guitar, vocals
  • Scott Kannberg ("Spiral Stairs") - guitar, vocals
  • Bob Nastanovich - percussion, backing vocals, multiple instruments (1993-1999)
  • Mark Ibold - bass (1992-1999)
  • Gary Young - drums (1989-1993)
  • Steve West - drums (1993-1999)

First formed as a studio project for Malkmus and Kannberg, Pavement became a full-fledged band around 1992. While their initial material was marked by low recording quality and Noise Pop and Post-Punk influences (especially from The Fall), the band became more accessible, at least sonically, starting in The '90s - their albums Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain established them as indie rock heroes and brought them a degree of popularity among indie kids. They moved away from outright indie into Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly territory starting with Wowee Zowee (a change Malkmus attributed to excessive marijuana smoking), without losing their trademark messiness, while their last two albums are noticeably mellower and spacier (Terror Twilight verging on the OK Computerish at times due to sharing a producer in Nigel Godrich).

Pavement broke up in 1999 due to intra-band conflict (especially between the others and Malkmus), and reunited pretty epically in 2010. However, Malkmus has said that no further tours are planned, and Nastanovich ruled out the possibility of new material.

They guest-starred in the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Pavement", where they were misidentified as "The Beatles" and played a noisy cover of the show's theme song while Space Ghost attempted to interview another guest.

  • Slay Tracks (1933-1969) EP (1989)
  • Demolition Plot J-7 EP (1990)
  • Perfect Sound Forever EP (1991)
  • Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
  • Watery, Domestic EP (1992)
  • Westing (By Musket and Sextant) (1993) - compilation featuring their first three EPs, some B-sides and compilation tracks
  • Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
  • Wowee Zowee (1995)
  • Pacific Trim EP (1996)
  • Brighten the Corners (1997)
  • Terror Twilight (1999)
  • Major Leagues EP (1999)
  • Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement (2010)

Tropes represented by Pavement:

  • Affectionate Parody: It's generally accepted that "Flux = Rad" is a tribute to Nirvana, considering the quiet verse, loud chorus nature and the Broken Record nature of the chorus. Similarly, "Serpentine Pad" is generally considered an affectionate parody of The Sex Pistols and Sister-era Sonic Youth.
  • The Alcoholic: Gary Young was kicked out of the band because of his drunken antics (doing hand-stands, failing to stay on his stool during live performances, running around the stage while the band played, handing out cabbage and potatoes to fans).
  • Author Appeal: Stephen Malkmus was a history major in college, which explains "Conduit for Sale!" and the other historical references in their songs from time to time.
  • Careful with That Axe: According to the liner notes of the Sordid Sentinels Edition of Wowee Zowee, the reason Stephen Malkmus screamed "My God, I can't believe I'm still going" in "Half a Canyon" was out of genuine disbelief; he recalled feeling lightheaded recording the track and thinking he was going to faint or at least lose his voice after all the screaming.
    • Also occurs in "Cut Your Hair": "Advertising looks and chops a must / No BIG HAIR!!!"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Gary Young, the original drummer, due to reasons seen in The Alcoholic above.
    • The band themselves, due to their Word Salad Lyrics along with their quirky sound and demeanor.
  • Cool Old Guy: Gary Young. He was a former hippie who owned a home studio where the band recorded, and joined after hearing the first demos (and was quoted as saying, "This Malkmus idiot's a complete songwriting genius!").
  • Dreadful Musician: Nastanovich was said to have been hired as percussionist because Young's drumming on Slanted was too shaky.
    • Stephen Malkmus once said he thinks anyone can be a singer if he can make a career out of it, since he's not exactly known for having the most tuneful voice.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The vocals in "And Then... (The Hexx)" don't enter until three minutes into the song.
  • Epic Rocking: Not that often, but there are a few examples in their discography. The best examples are probably "Fillmore Jive" (6:39), "Half a Canyon" (6:10), the demo of "Fight This Generation" (8:11), "And Then... (The Hexx)" (7:02), and the live version of "Type Slowly" (6:48).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
  • Genre Roulette: Wowee Zowee is one of the most infamous examples in indie music.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement, released in 2010 to coincide with their reunion.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Summer Babe (Winter Version). Fans agree that this pun was awesome.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Stephen Malkmus has gone on record to say not even he knows what he's yelling about in the studio version of "Best Friend's Arm." Most lyric sites replace a majority of the lyrics with question marks.
  • Instrumentals: "5-4=Unity", "Strings of Nashville (Instrumental)", and "Instrumental", among other tracks. "Pueblo (Beach Boys)" could be considered this as well if wordless vocals count.
    • "5-4=Unity" originally had seemingly improvised vocals, but it was decided it worked better as an instrumental: The With Lyrics version, "5-4 Vocal", was released as a B-Side.
  • Lighter and Softer: In general, they tended to progress in this direction as their career moved along. Their last two albums are definitely this to the material that preceded it, as are their first three albums to their early EPs.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The first four albums got two-disc reissues with tons of bonus tracks and Feelies roughly ten years after the releases of the original albums. One was announced for Terror Twilight, too, but it's languishing in Development Hell.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: "Nothing Ever Happens" was left off Slanted And Enchanted, but the song's riff became a 30 second instrumental postscript to "Trigger Cut / Wounded-Kite at :17". The full two and a half minute song, with vocals by Spiral Stairs, finally saw release on Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe And Reduxe, ten years after the release of the original album.
    • Similarly, "Dark Ages" was left off of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but the final minute of the song was turned into an introduction to "Filmore Jive". All 2:40 of "Dark Ages" appeared on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins.
  • Loudness War: Mostly averted, but the reissue of Brighten the Corners is pretty squished. Some of the other reissues are louder than the originals as well, although the reissue of Crooked Rain appears to use the same master as the original.
  • Metal Scream: A few songs, most notably in "Half a Canyon".
  • Miniscule Rocking: Several songs, but "Recorder Grot (Rally)" (0:22), "Drive-by Fader" (0:28), "Sordid" (0:28), and "Sentinel" (0:14) have to take the cake.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Especially on Wowee Zowee, but present on all their albums.
  • New Sound Album: Brighten the Corners
    • Arguably, each of their albums starting with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is this when compared to the album before it. Wowee Zowee is one of the more infamous examples due to its experimental nature. Though Pavement's Greatest Hits Album, Quarantine the Past, contains rarities such as "The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" and much more than just the "hits," it still only contains TWO tracks from Wowee Zowee (the same amount of tracks that are pulled from an early EP), neither of which were released as singles.
  • The '90s
  • Non-Appearing Title: Roughly half their songs.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Both SM and Spiral Stairs.
  • Piss-Take Rap: "Blue Hawaiian".
  • Precision F-Strike: Many songs.
  • Recycled Lyrics: Variants of the line "Stick your penitentiary clothes inside a vent" appear in "Fin" and "Birds in the Magic Industry".
    • "Carrot Rope" and "Harness Your Hopes" both include lines about "harness[ing] your hopes" to someone: The former has "Harness your hopes to the folks" and the latter has "Harness your hopes to just one person".
  • Refuge in Audacity: Wowee Zowee was originally going to be titled Dick-Sucking Fool at Pussy-Licking School, before the band decided it was too risqué.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: A graphic mistake on the back cover of Crooked Rain led to a lot of people thinking the song "Silence Kid" was named "Silence Kit". It doesn't help that the reissue also made this mistake on the back cover.
  • Shout-Out: Wowee Zowee is named after an early Frank Zappa song ("Wowie Zowie") and its cover art is reminiscent of Känguru by the Krautrock band Guru Guru. The back cover showing a wizard with the speech bubble "Pavement Ist Rad!" is probably an additional nod to the origin of the cover.
    • From "Stereo":
    "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)
    And you're my fact-checkin' cuzz"
    • Most of "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" is Stephen Malkmus gushing about R.E.M. (more specifically their second album, Reckoning).
    • Their Cover Version of "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen throws in lyrics from "Thorn of Crowns" and "Yo Yo Man", two other Echo and the Bunnymen songs from their album Ocean Rain: C-c-c-cucumber, c-c-c-cauliflower, c-c-c-cabbage / He's the yo-yo man, always up and down".
    • There are a whole bunch of these in the live show included in Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe, including to The Beatles, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Sonic Youth.
  • Step Up to the Microphone/Vocal Tag Team: Scott Kannberg's turns at lead vocals fall somewhere between the two: He sings one or two songs on nearly every full length album except for Terror Twilight, but Stephen Malkmus still definitely has the majority of vocals. In addition, "Painted Soldiers" is the only Kannberg-sung track to have a music video, and even then it wasn't officially a single.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Spit on a Stranger," "Box Elder," "Range Life", and "Here," among other songs.
  • Take That!: "Range Life" mocks The Smashing Pumpkins' Indecipherable Lyrics and Stone Temple Pilots' image. Word of God says it wasn't intended to be a particularly serious criticism, but Billy Corgan didn't take it well.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Their early material qualifies. They quickly abandoned this, however, as they started using higher-quality recording techniques and made their songs more complicated.
  • Trope Maker: For the genre known as lo-fi, along with Guided by Voices. By the time of their first album, however, they stopped completely relying on lo-fi recording equipment, and by the time of Crooked Rain they'd pretty much abandoned it entirely.
    • By extension they're also the Trope Codifier for the general sound of Indie Rock as a whole during the genre's formative years of the early and mid 90's.
  • Visual Pun: At one point in the "Cut Your Hair" video, Mark Ibold coughs up a live cat and gives it away to the barber he was about to get a haircut from. This is a reference to his involvement with the band Free Kitten.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Oh dear god, "Conduit for Sale!"
    Unable to bear the scandal, Ray, philanthropist
    Rents low-down scab house in conduit
    Herr Proctor offers said land for a song
    But no one wants to sing
    In an attempt to retain social privileges
    Yet mask it as goodwill
    He says to the conduit members,
    "Take this rotten old tree and make it bear fruit."
    Cheers erupted throughout the thin settlement
    • Some people seem to believe it's about the fall of the House of Savoy in Turin.
    • Many of their lyrics are presented in such a fashion it's difficult to discern what they're about. For example, on, the comments section of "Carrot Rope" debates whether the song is about religion, sexual molestation, cricket, a stream of consciousness where every other line is a non sequitur, or something else entirely.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: "Gold Soundz"