Recently, an alarming statistic revealed that 2 out of 3 For Young Moderns writers suffer from a lack of Pavement appreciation. The other third of this site's staff writers has now seen Pavement live during their current reunion tour three times (and "and counting" would be an appropriate coda to this sentence if this weekend's Pavement show at Matador Record's 21st birthday blackout weekend in Las Vegas wasn't their currently final scheduled show of the tour).

(Pavement live at the Hollywood Bowl - Sept. 30 2010 - Click image to enlarge)

Pavement was the musical embodiment of the 90's, bar none. Pavement was the 90's. No other band during the decade released albums from the beginning to the end of the 90's as consistently good as Pavement's and nobody quite captured the snarky slacker element of the decade better than these boys from Stockton, California. Pavement exuded weirdness and a detachment from seriousness that gave their songs a one-of-a-kind repeatable quality to them.

It's understandable, but very misleading to think that Pavement are a band who made a bunch of boring, white guy college rock. But it is because of this strangeness that many people just cannot seem to get into them. Their discography goes well beyond their five amazing albums as they have a countless number of rarities and b-sides, many just as good as album material. It's easy to get lost in the vast number of Pavement songs. Recently, this FYM writer discovered that a close acquaintance of ours had recently tried getting into Pavement by listening to a mix she found at her's college's radio station of obscure b-sides that were not the best introduction to the band. Therefore, For Young Moderns has compiled a bit of a proper 'Introduction to Pavement' mini-mix that will hopefully provide the right songs to get the nonbelievers on the one true path.

1. "Stereo" from Brighten the Corners
2. "AT&T" from Wowee Zowee
3. "Shady Lane" from Brighten the Corners
4. "Gold Soundz" from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
5. "Unfair" from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
6. "Spit on a Stranger" from Terror Twilight
7. "Grave Architecture" from Wowee Zowee
8. "Major Leagues" from Terror Twilight
9. "Range Life" from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
10. "Cut Your Hair" from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain


The obvious first choice for a Pavement song that should get anybody hooked right away is "Stereo" from 1997's Brighten the Corners, the band's fourth album. If FYM was King of the Radio/CEO of Clear Channel in the 90's, "Stereo" might have been close to being as big as "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Definitely bigger than Dishwalla. "Stereo" truly sounds like Pavement's first big attempt at major airplay. Other radio-friendly songs like "Cut Your Hair" and "AT&T" (both covered below) came before it, but neither had a chorus quite like "Stereo". This song features some of Stephen Malkmus' weirdest, and therefore best (and very memorable), lyrics during the alluringly catchy verses, which eventually crash into the dynamite explosion of the chorus ("Listen to me!! I'm on the stereo!! STEREO!"). Failure to instantly recognize this as a great song should lead to your commitment in a mental health facility. Doctor's orders:


Now that "Stereo" has you hooked (or, for those poor souls who were somehow unswayed by "Stereo"), the song named after every iPhone owner's least favorite telecommunications provider is a solid second choice to win over a Pavement non-believer. A big part of this reasoning is that both songs feature huge, soaring choruses. "AT&T" can be found smack-dab right in the middle of Pavement's third and (lovingly) strangest album, Wowee Zowee. Malkmus' wild and scattered vocal stylings on this song made it unlikely for it to ever become a legitimate single, but it's that looseness and wackiness that you must be able to find appealing that makes it so fun:

"Shady Lane"

"Shady Lane" follows "Stereo" as the second track off of Brighten the Corners, and for a lot of young Pavement fans who didn't get into them until their breakup in 1999, it was these two songs that likely got most of us hooked. As grunge died and horrendous jock rock and mall punk began polluting the radio airwaves in the late 90's, late-career Pavement songs like "Shady Lane" and "Spit On a Stranger" (also below) sounded so completely mesmerizing and strange. Because I initially started discovering iconic indie rock bands as I entered high school around 1999, this FYM writer essentially discovered Pavement backwards, getting into their last albums Brighten the Corners and Terror Twilight before the classics  Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. "Shady Lane" was a massive part of that discovery, as its simple two-part song structure, fun-to-learn-guitar-along-with guitar parts, and absolutely addictive tongue twisting lyrics had the song on repeat for years.

A couple years ago my younger brother and I were listening to this song several years after we had both gotten into it and performed it over and over again in our garage on guitar and drums and we noted how we knew this song had the best lyrics because even though they hardly make a lick of sense, we still remembered every single word by heart every time it was listened to. Once you start listening to it (and once you know the lyrics), you can't help but sing along the whole way through until it's over.

"Blind date with a chancer, we had oysters and dry lancers, and the check, when it arrived, we went Dutch, Dutch, Dutch, Dutch..."

"Gold Soundz"

Clocking in at a mere two minutes and forty seconds, "Gold Soundz" is now (arguably) considered to be Pavement's masterpiece (especially thanks to Pitchfork recently naming it the best song of the 1990's, beating out behemoths like "Paranoid Android" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit"). It's fairly tough to pinpoint what exactly makes "Gold Soundz" so spectacular. This is not a song that will blow you away upon first listen, but rather, upon multiple listens, its beauty slowly becomes apparent. Perhaps part of it is in the subtle emotional strain of the minor chords of the guitars during the choruses and solo. Perhaps part of it is in its lyrics: "So drunk in the August sun/And you're the kind of girl I like/Because you're empty and I'm empty/And you can never quarantine the past" is less a refrain from a song and more a vivid painting of a time, a place, and a person that so easy to visualize every time you hear it. "Gold Soundz" is rare utter perfection that didn't need bombastic highs or depressing lows to get there.


"Unfair" hits close to home. How many Northern California vs. Southern California fight songs can you name? If you can even name one, "Unfair" is likely better. Pavement, who originally hail from the north-central California city of Stockton, start the song off by going "down to Santa Rosa and over the Bay/Across the grapevine to LA" before suggesting they burn the "Hills of Beverly". Sounds good to me. Pavement doesn't take a bias route in this song as they ultimately side with Nor Cal with the decree of "The south takes what the north delivers" perhaps referencing Southern California historically getting its water from Owens Valley in the north (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Water_Wars). The song is a little ball of energy that should get you pumped no matter what end of California you side with:

"Spit On a Stranger"

If the rollicking numbers above haven't quite swayed you yet, perhaps it's time for a ballad? For a song with such a rough-sounding title like "Spit on a Stranger", this single from Pavement's final album, 1999's Terror Twilight (talk about a premonition of an album title...), is their most delicate song and one of the closest things to a love song, or at least an affectionate-sounding song, they ever did. There are a couple of lyrical stunners found in this one in "Honey, you're a prize and I'm a catch and we're a perfect match" and "I've been thinking long and hard about the things you said to me/Like a bitter stranger". This song is a fan favorite that was played at all three concerts FYM attended to audiences that, where found, saw couples swaying together from the first note of the song. It's not your father's love song but it's the best Pavement can do, and they damn right nailed it:

"Grave Architecture"

Otherwise known as "Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave. Architecture." This is kind of a groovy song with song slick guitar riffs. So it's a good choice for an introduction to Pavement mix because who doesn't like groovy guitars, catchy jangly guitar riffs, and  You can practically smell the excess marijuana Pavement was smoking while making this song and other songs on Wowee Zowee.

"Major Leagues"

Besides "Spit On a Stranger", this is the other golden Pavement slow jam. This is a gloriously recorded (that guitar tone was laid down and mastered perfectly) and expertly written indie pop song. Everything about the song is gorgeous and finely crafted together, which makes it very different from the general looseness of most of the band's other discography. If you find Pavement a little too 'ripped jeans' for your tastes, then perhaps it will be "Major Leagues" that will show you the band was capable of creating something a little more 'tuxedo'.

"Range Life"

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain centerpiece "Range Life" is one of Pavement's most beloved, lengthiest, and most developed songs. It can easily be argued that this is also their best song. If Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was Pavement's Hotel California, then "Range Life" is Hotel California's title track. The song has a unique country-western vibe, contains some delicious imagery in its lyrics "Out on my skateboard/The night is just humming..." including the infamous disses to both The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots found in the final verse of the song.

"Cut Your Hair"

If all else fails, why not just go with the one song that actually kind of became a minor hit. "Cut Your Hair" got some radio and MTV airplay here and there in 1994. It wasn't a massive alt rock hit like "Creep", so Pavement, unlike Radiohead, never really shunned their one big hit. They played it most, possibly all, shows they did this year and at the Hollywood Bowl show this past week, they seemed to enjoy getting "the single" out of the way early by playing it first in the set. If none of the other songs got you hooked on Pavement but this one did, then I'm sorry to say your mind has been corrupted to only like the very radio friendly. Still, it's a damn good song: