Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I envy anyone who gets to hear Pavement for the first time. This reminds me, despite Mallory's claims, that they were a lot like their detractors said they were, and a great deal more besides. Warming to them around the time of Brighten The Corners -- whose title remains the straightest joke Stephen Malkmus has ever told -- I situated them in the tradition of Tom Verlaine, the Go-Betweens, Al Green, David Byrne, and Bryan Ferry as another group of wise-ass young men, reeling from the impact of feminism, using their instruments and dubious poetry to figure out that sex = confusion = sex. In an era when Liz Phair and Amy Rigby were reclaiming the tradition of demotic speech to illumine their own experiences dealing with guys less smart and minty-fresh than Malkmus, Pavement seemed a throwback, almost Joni Mitchell-esque in their commitment to gelded lyricism and full-throated, luverly singing (Malkmus was actually funnier than Joni and seemed as incapable of self-importance as he was to wearing Timbalands). Writing those lines about cigar stands and lovely blue incandescent guillotines distanced Malkmus from the sex wars by making a quasi-symbolist joke of them, yet, in their one-of-a-kind spontaneity delivered by a frontman who's clearly having a great time singing them, reaffirmed his commitment to fighting those wars anyway. Malkmus, like Bernard Sumner, was my kind of guitar hero: too knowing to ever that last noun without scare quotes, capable of self-abasement when he got up to the mic and saw all those people.
Posted by Alfred Soto at 10:31 PM