Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Why Pavement?


It should be known that Pavement is my all-time favorite band. Although I generally try to listen to new bands and the latest releases, Pavement is one of the few bands I will choose to listen that hasn't released an album in ten years (aside from all their remastered/repackaged albums).

The other night, while driving two hours round trip for my job, I put every Pavement song on the iPod on shuffle. It the made the driving seem not so tedious and brought back a ton of great memories related to the band and their music. It also got me thinking about why this band over all others is my favorite.

So, I thought up a list of reasons. Here's my list of top-5 reasons to love Pavement based on the characteristics that each member of the band exhibited...in no particular order.

2. Bob Nastanovich
Nasty, as his fans knew him, was a bit of the X-factor one looks for in a band. He played a second set of drums and/or whatever else a song called for (tambourine, Moog, yelps, etc.). His musical contributions provided the band with that weird element that allowed for Pavement to remain unaccepted by the mainstream.

Nasty's youthful exuberance was contagious, almost Will Ferrell-like. Every live act needs some nut job hopping around and hollering in the mic. The other band members were either to laid back or too up tight to fill this roll, so Nasty had to step up with the energy. The most remarkable part is that Nasty's energy could be felt on record.

Bob was arguably the band's biggest sports fan. Horse racing was his specialty. He was such a big fan that he bought a house across the street from Churchill Downs. There are odd sports references throughout the Pavement catalog, meeting my need for jock straps in my music.

5. Steve West
Westy was an amateur drummer at best. Self-taught and hired to take the place of burnt-out Gary Young, Steve provided that DIY aesthetic present in early lo-fi Pavement recordings and helped it carry on throughout the rest of their albums.

Steve was also the calming factor for the band once Young departed. So many bands make the listener uncomfortable, agitated, angry, etc. Pavement, while not exactly soothing, makes you happy, causes you to giggle. The band's music doesn't make you want to do handstands on drum kits, pass out cabbage at clubs, or pull guns on Stephen Malkmus. For me, Pavement helps center me, gives me context and perspective. Steve West, like a good drummer (not great), does that.

Pavement is also a rather arty band, like Sonic Youth or the Velvet Underground. West once worked with Malk and David Berman (of Silver Jews fame) as a security guard at the Whitney. He was a blue-collar guy (at least in his work) protecting art. Pavement was a blue-collar band (with a pedigree) protecting art rock from the mainstream.

3. Scott Kannberg
Spiral Stairs was the other half of Pavements song-writing tandem. He was a bit of an underachiever, penning a small percentage of the band's songs. Pavement is also thought of as an underachieving band. In a decade of bands signing to majors labels left and right, Pavement was never signed. When their label Matador inked a distribution deal with Atlantic Records with the great hopes of providing a breakout act in Pavement. Instead, the band delivered the meandering and wonderfully strange Wowwee Zowee.

Kannberg rarely entered a recording session prepared to submit songs. Most of his tracks were afterthoughts left off the final cuts. The band often carried much the same reputation, rarely looking or acting like a true band with all the members spread out across the country.

4. Mark Ibold
If there is one thing that Pavement was, it was cool. Mark Ibold epitomized that cool. Rarely super emotional, Ibold held the band together with his steady grooves.

An interesting fact about Ibold is that he was one of the band's earliest fans. Thanks to the band's unpolished style and sloppy live shows, fans felt a connection to such imperfection. Ibold was proof that Pavement was within reach of its fans.

1. Stephen Malkmus
SM Jenkins had (actually, still has) this curious singing style where he is never quite on time and his lyrics feel more like free-form poetry than pop music. Such was most of Pavement's catalog. Avoiding rock cliches and traditional song structures, the band mystified both fans and critics. Usually, everyone hated a Pavement album when it first came out...that is, until the next one was released. Then it was considered a classic.

Malk also represented Pavement's pretentious, wise-ass side.The majority of the band came from some sort of upper-middle class upbringing and post-secondary education, making them both a thinking man's band beyond the constraints of pop music and culture.

Separately, the parts of Pavement have not added up to much. Together, they have created a brand of music that has lasted and still pulls kids in. These parts were all unique and vital to Pavement's success and legacy. Check my oeuvre blog I can't sing it strong enough and get the full picture of the Pavement legend.

7 comments:

Pizza Cottontail said...

Any truth to the Pavement reunion rumors?

I'm pretty stoked about their live album, either way.

comoprozac said...

I doubt there will ever be a Pavement reunion.

Live album? I hadn't heard about that.

Pizza Cottontail said...

Pavement has a live 1988 LP coming out for Record Store Day, which I think is 4/18.

Here's info on all the day's releases.

I heard most of the LP's are ultra rare, like maybe 3000 copies of each.

Austin said...

love love love love love love the post.
im with you though, i kind of doubt a reunion is in store for them. i mean i just dont know that any of them care that much to get back together and worry about it.
BUT
this summer there is apparently supposed to be a "pavement anniversaryparty" put on by matador to celebrate the band's 20th anniversary.
oh the lengths i would travel to hang out with the matador staff and talk pavement for hours

yeah the live LPs are really cool, i got one with the pre-order of brighten the corners

Kate said...

There's was "kind of" a reunion at Bob's wedding in Nashville a month or two ago...but they didn't acutally play Pavement songs.

douglas said...

So when is "Can't Sing it Strong Enough" going to be updated?

After catching SM run through Pavement songs at the Great American Music Hall for Noise Pop, I'm betting there's a reunion. Although the wedding party was almost so, Scott Kannberg, who was in the audience, didn't join in. We'll see.

Isn't the Record Store Day "live album" the one Matador gave away w/ "Brighten the Corners" if you ordered the deluxe edition online?

Finally, as for "Nasty," his role is most telling in the documentary "Slow Century" when he talks about someone saying they saw no purpose for his presence on stage. Sorry, but I agree. Yes, w/o Gary Young, you don't feel like handing out cabbage, doing handstands, or purchasing shotguns, but are you sure the early lo-fi recordings were West? Was it not after "Watery, Domestic" when he joined? Anywhoo....

Lovey said...

How Far Away is Ohio?