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Pavement



For many, Pavement's name was synonymous with the '90s rock underground. The Stockton, CA-based band's laconic slacker flavor, snottily intelligent lyrics, lo-fi production style, elliptical song structures, bursts of abrasive noise, and smiling fuck-all attitude made them a prototype for the indie rock explosion and one of the most important and influential bands of the decade.

Frontman and soon-to-be youth culture icon Steve Malkmus started Pavement with guitarist Scott Kannberg (aka Spiral Stairs) upon returning home from college in the late '80s. After a couple of cheaply recorded singles and some roster changes, the group delivered their 1992 debut album Slanted and Enchanted. It was a kind of Velvet Underground and Nico for the '90s, a record that came out of nowhere to completely reinvent rock music, not with grand gestures, but with wry humor, razor sharp intelligence, unexpected genre appropriations, and weird fractured arrangements that mixed hooks with noise like nothing before. While it wasn't a mainstream hit, you can probably count on hearing "Summer Babe" drifting out of dorm room windows for many years into the future.

With their 1994 follow-up Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (the Watery, Domestic EP came in between), Pavement got as close as they'd ever come to major commercial success, with the glib "Cut Your Hair" going into modern rock radio rotation and even making it to MTV. While less manic and rambunctious than Slanted and Enchanted, it followed in much the same spirit as their debut, establishing the band as a clear critical fave. A year later Pavement issued Wowee Zowee, possibly their most eclectic and peculiar effort to date.

Pavement's laid-back fourth effort, 1997's Brighten the Corners, with its mellow sun-baked classic "Shady Lane," suggested the band was getting a bit older and possibly even more mature. Indeed, it was the last true Pavement album, as simmering tensions between Malkmus and Kannberg significantly reduced Kannberg's involvement with the band's fifth and final record, 1999's Terror Twilight, which also got a makeover from producer Nigel Godrich, notorious for his work with Beck and Radiohead, who eliminated the delirious fuzz and bizarre tangents that made Pavement's early work so distinctive.

By the next year, both Malkmus and Kannberg had moved on to new bands, the former moving to Portland to front Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Kannberg heading Preston School Of Industry. In 2002, Matador cemented the Slanted and Enchanted legend with one of the most massive reissues ever, an amazing double album appropriately subtitled Luxe and Reduxe featuring the original album, plus -- good grief -- 34 new tracks, consisting of the Watery, Domestic EP, unreleased Watery and Slanted sessions, a pair of John Peel sessions, and a 1992 live performance in London, as well as a beautiful 58-page booklet. Simultaneously, Matador gave us a 2DVD set entitled Slow Century featuring live performances and a documentary.