While the rest of the Pony Girl Staff have been out partying all night and making the world Dirty enough for all of us, i've been locked up in my parlor, festering in my ratty old Converge sweatshirt, drinking a lot of cheap beer and bumming out to late Pavement and Will Oldham.
Certain things make me feel old and kind of bum me out. Seeing shows like Space Ghost or Mystery Science Theater 3000 on TV makes me feel old. Seeing Rushmore on Comedy Central and remembering when I was 13 and saw it in theaters makes me feel old. Seeing Bill Murry makes me feel old. Going to shows that aren't 21+ makes me feel old. Pavement's last two albums, Terror Twilight in particular, really make me feel old.
“Architecture students are like virgins/with an itch they cannot scratch/never build a building 'til you're 50/what kind of life is that?”
- “The Hexx.”
Why does Terror Twilight bum me out so much? It doesn't bum me out in that “great band passed it's prime trying desperately to stay relevant” kind of way. It bums me out in a broader, more existential kind of way. Because I think without Pavement, most of the kids who came of age in the 1990s probably would've killed themselves. You can quote me on that. Think about it, if Pavement isn't the band that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy thinking back on your otherwise shitty childhood, it's probably Weezer, and we all know Weezer is just Pavement without all the talent and a serious case of yellow fever. Hell, Pavement still has a strangle-hold on the #1 indie-rock-influence title, so unless you're older than thirty or younger than fifteen, Pavement has had a lot of influence on the way you look at music, whether you know it or not.
But my point is, fuck bands like Nirvana and the Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. Did the world need any more bumming out? Sure, hair-metal was a ridiculous craze, but that doesn't mean that popular music needed to shift into the eternally stoned depression that those assholes helped create. What's wrong with having a little fun? Why can't you be eternally stoned and fucking loving it? I think Bart Simpson (or was it Lisa?) said it best; “Making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.” Pavement was the antidote to all this bullshit. They were the pinnacle of cultural irreverence. Stephen Malkmus could've been the voice of an entire generation, instead he's just the voice of twenty-something disgruntled hipsters. What held them back was the exact thing that should've been their biggest selling point: they were just as bored and lazy and apathetic as you were, but they didn't suck at the guitar. But when it comes down to it, kids didn't want a band just like them. They wanted more straight-forward song structures. Less abstract lyrics. A singer with a cleaner voice and more choruses. In short, they wanted Weezer. It took a Harvard education to figure out that stoner kids didn't want a stoner band, they wanted a clean-cut band that could appeal to stoners. Either way, kids had their “feel good” band that made them want to go skateboarding with their friends instead of hang themselves by their ceiling fans, and the world was a better place because of it. I guess that's why i'll never fault Weezer for essentially being Pavement-lite—because in my book they were both forces for good.
Wait, back to my real point. Why does Terror Twilight do the very thing i've just canonized Pavement for NEVER doing?
I guess mainly because it's where Pavement really starts to act its age. The songs are tighter, quieter, more focused. It essentially sounds like a Malkmus solo album. I guess the threat of Y2K and a cultural apocalypse was enough to make even the Malk man re-evaluate where he fits in the grand scheme of things. But I wanted Pavement to be the band that laughed at all that shit. Say “fuck off” to the hyper-paranoid pack rats and just keep doing what they had been doing. But I guess they reached a breaking point. Their “Terror Twilight” if you will. Was Stephen Malkmus aging? Was he ready to accept the graying hair the aching back and his new role as respected Elder Statesmen of indie rock? I guess so. I guess that's better and more respectable than becoming a crazy ass recluse like Jeff Mangum. At what point do we all just need to grow the fuck up?
But, you know, there's always the looking back. I can still listen to Crooked Rain Crooked Rain and dive back into immaturity, if only for 45 minutes or so. Gold Soundz sums it up better than I ever could, with my favorite Pavement lyric ever:
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.”
For a double-shot of self-loathing, how about a clip of Pavement ON Space Ghost? I remember seeing this episode of Space Ghost when I was like 14 or whatever. Fuck I loved Space Ghost.
I remember after Malkmus “dissed” the Smashing Pumpkins in the song "Range Life," song, Billy Corgan responded with an eerily prophetic message: “People don’t fall in love to Pavement… they put on Smashing Pumpkins or Hole or Nirvana, because these bands actually mean something to them.”
Sure thing Billy.