Hesitant kudos: Pavement

In the winter of 1992, old enough to read and react to the music press, I learned about an album called Slanted and Enchanted. It topped SPIN’s poll. About fourteen months later, sensing a breakthrough, Matador sent Pavement on a press blitzkrieg to promote Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, including a wonderful Details interview in which they copped to fighting members of Beverly Hills 90210. I liked Stephen Malkmus’ floppy hair. Not until the summer of 1995 — when hesitant kudos (now there’s a Pavement title) presaged the doomed reception of Wowee Zowee — did I buy a tape copy of CRCR at Best Buy. Their literary-musical virtues started to shine in 1997, after which I was hooked for three intense years.

Like Jeanne Moreau’s Catherine’s infatuation with Oskar Werner’s blond, dull Jules, however, my raptures had trouble outlasting my rapid education in other musical fronts. But I remember Pavement fondly; I retain an affection for what Eric Weisbard called their “garish little fuzzed-up taunters” like “Trigger Cut,” in which an equally bored Malkmus lost interest in contrast to the grand un-power ballads to which no one who can play a drum roll or who understands that a bass has strings will confuse with “Under the Bridge” or “Love of a Lifetime.” On his excellent solo debut Malkmus sniffed, “I had a crap gin and tonic/It wounded me.” Only ten years after “Summer Babe” immortalized a woman who mixed cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar too, I got it: life is hard for a dandy with floppy hair who uses diffidence like a pool cue. Dean Wareham, Tom Verlaine, Robert Forster, Alexander O’Neal — you’ve been served.

1. Summer Babe
2. Rattled By the Rush
3. Unfair
4. In the Mouth a Desert
5. Type Slowly
6. Grave Architecture
7. Trigger Cut
8. You’re Killing Me
9. Embassy Row
10. Stop Breathin’
11. Give It a Day
12. Unseen Power of the Picket Fence
13. Conduit For Sale!
14. Box Elder
15. Shady Lane
16. Frontwards
17. Father to a Sister of Thought
18. Cut Your Hair
19. Gangsters & Pranksters
20. Transport is Arranged
21. Debris Slide
22. Major Leagues
23. Grounded
24. Easily Fooled
25. Serpentine Pad

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