Pavement: Return of the Heavily-Favored Underdogs
NOW, TO THE MUSIC. Trying to describe music in words may be something like trying to describe a car crash that happened in front of a beautiful sunset, just as someone started yelling the word “English,” a wild horse ran through the scene, in flames, and you have a stomach-ache or feel really good. It also may not be like this. Nonetheless, the attempt must be made.
It is sometimes said of humans that we don’t think, we compare. Pavement, early on, was compared to the Manchester band The Fall. R.E.M was mentioned, possibly by people who just felt like mentioning R.E.M. Fleetwood Mac seems to be brought up by bandmembers, here and there, and other influences and favorites are energetically cited. The Replacements, The Gang of Four, Swell Maps, Wire and a lot of the American Hardcore bands of the ‘80s. “I used to dress up as KISS,” offers Kannberg. Despite all that love and interest, the band has that simple and rare thing that is so often claimed but hardly ever owned: an original sound.
This original sound derives, of course, from the temperaments and sensibilities of each musician—“non-musician” Nastanovich is very much included, though he has describes his duties onstage as, merely, “Sit back and gauge what needs to be done.” It may also come from the unique way that Pavement chose to exist.
“We weren’t really a band, in the classic sense of a band,” says Kannberg. And this is fine, as there’ve been plenty of bands who were bands in the classic sense of bands, though it didn’t do them any good. Pavement would gather, book a studio, I’m sure all sorts of things would happen, an album would somehow get cut, and then they’d all scatter again.
This gave the live shows, even when the band was technically together, a kind of reunion feel. And this cycle may have given the records the strange and immediate quality that seems to have been hitherto uncapturable by other bands. The sometimes genius of a late-night conversation or a fight outside your window or a cloud that looks like a dog for a second. The band also seems to be blessed by a kind of naturally inward-looking style, in addition to actual events that might have helped them look inward.
“I’m glad that fame didn’t happen,” says Kannberg. “I mean, imagine.” And then he allows a gentlemanly pause.
The songs’ originality extends to their form, as well as to their physical sound and content. The band showed no anxiety about including songs that were under two minutes on their records and few songs follow the predictable arrangements made famous by the predictable many. The songs are almost more like sporting events, somehow, or foreign dramas in a forgotten but recognizable Western style.
For fun, let’s take a look at one, keeping in mind the car crash and your poor tummy and the horse on fire. The song is from the 1994 record, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and the title is “Silence Kit.” With a cymbal crash, a guitar enters, hesitantly, almost like a character from “Peter and the Wolf,” and is joined, sort of, by drums that seem like they’re being played in another room on a different day. The bassist hits a string, maybe rolls his sleeve up or waves to someone. It’s either some teenagers in the basement or an Oxford don clearing his throat. You hear someone say, “Scott,” or maybe, “Apricot.” And then, in a way that seems like creation itself, the whole thing starts, all the elements coming together in a menacing groove, with a cowbell that actually reminds you of a cow, proceeding with a determined and mainly innocent gait. Then it all builds, inescapably, to real rock and roll. There is a very long Beach Boys-like “Ah,” which is either satisfaction or Sigmund-Fruedian-contemplation. Then comes the first line, “Silent kid, no one to remind you,” and the fun begins to multiply; the language is so unstable that the words from the verse denoting the main object of our attention—“Silent Kid”—have dripped, like a freshly and poorly painted sign, into the title “Silence Kit.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
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Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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