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It's a brand new era, but it came too late
January 16, 2014 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Pavement's album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was released twenty years ago next month. Stereogum has the oral history.
posted by escabeche (61 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
this album still holds up
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:36 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


Great! This is, basically, my idea of new music.

Have you heard of this new band, The Flaming Lips?
posted by thelonius at 3:45 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


To be fair, the Stone Temple Pilots were elegant bachelors.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:48 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


They're foxy to me. Are they foxy to you?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:49 PM on January 16 [7 favorites]


And, while I do enjoy some Smashing Pumpkins record, I don't understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck.
posted by LionIndex at 3:50 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


Have you heard of this new band, The Flaming Lips?

Astonishingly enough, Flaming Lips had already been around for 11 years by the time Crooked Rain came out.
posted by mykescipark at 3:51 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


Why are "oral histories" of yet-another-album the big thing nowdays?
posted by mrbill at 3:53 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Because you're empty, and I'm empty.
posted by escabeche at 3:55 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


Why are "oral histories" of yet-another-album the big thing nowdays?

Because oral histories are a thing my stupid generation had our grandparents do, so now that we're old and grumpy, we think we have to do them, too. Grr.
posted by The World Famous at 3:56 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


> Astonishingly enough, Flaming Lips had already been around for 11 years by the time Crooked Rain came out.

It's kind of funny, these days, to read Lester Bangs complaining about the unseemliness of the Rolling Stones still releasing albums in 1975, TWELVE WHOLE YEARS after their first.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:56 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Some days I'll just be going about my business and randomly get "THIS IS THE SLOW SICK SUCKING PART OF ME" stuck in my head; those tend to be the days that I end up getting a lot accomplished.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:04 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


The only reason I'm at all familiar with Pavement is Schoolhouse Rock, only having heard them after their version of No More Kings on the Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! compilation was released. I was far too busy following the Funk Metal explosion of the early 90's to pay much attention at the time.
posted by mediocre at 4:08 PM on January 16


When I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last spring, I was disappointed it didn't have small rooms auto-playing oral histories that you could slowly back out of.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:08 PM on January 16


When the final story of Rock and Roll is written 88-95 will be known as the most seminal era of American music.
posted by any major dude at 4:12 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


When the final story of Rock and Roll is written 88-95 will be known as the most seminal era of American music.

This reads as a classic line from a Richard Linklater film that was never made.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:14 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


The only reason I'm at all familiar with Pavement is Schoolhouse Rock, only having heard them after their version of No More Kings yt on the Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! compilation.

Hah! Same here. Also, the other night I got a trivia question because I remembered the Ween version of Shot Heard Round the World (it was Lexington, FWIW).
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:14 PM on January 16


Why are "oral histories" of yet-another-album the big thing nowdays?

Because you can never quarantine the past.
posted by Rangeboy at 4:37 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


from the article:
For Pavement, already an underground sensation thanks to 1992 debut Slanted And Enchanted, this album marked a massive leap in terms of fidelity and style. Sonically, they traded the static-laden home recordings of their early days for studio work with outside engineers. Crooked Rain was hardly a polished record, but it sounded bright and clear compared to what came before it. Stephen Malkmus’ lyrics continued to be an inscrutable collage of scattered phraseology, ironic commentary on the music industry, and inside jokes interspersed with brief glimpses of relatable human sentiment; in the single “Gold Soundz,” the apparently soul-baring lyric “So drunk in the August sun/ And you’re the kind of girl I like/ Because you’re empty, and I’m empty” exists alongside nonsensical banter like “Did you remember in December/ That I won’t eat you when I’m gone.” But Pavement’s music underwent a substantial makeover on Crooked Rain. The band largely left behind the post-punk framework of Slanted in favor of an easygoing classic rock influence, establishing a template they’d work from for the rest of their storied career.
it's like the writer went out of his/her way to make this album sound like stupid pointless cash-in BULLSHIT

and succeeded

is the album as terrible as this makes it sound? 'inscrutable...ironic...inside jokes...brief glimpses of...human sentiment...nonsensical banter...easygoing classic rock influence...'?!#@$
posted by waxbanks at 4:38 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


That's all pretty much accurate. But they don't make it a bad record!
posted by grobstein at 4:43 PM on January 16


When the final story of Rock and Roll is written 88-95 will be known as the most seminal era of American music.

Because of all the jerk-offs?
 
posted by Herodios at 4:44 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Because that was the last time I was With It.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:52 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


You can never quarantine the past.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:54 PM on January 16


From self-aware aping of the dusty classic rock canon to - you guessed it - joining the dusty classic rock canon.
posted by naju at 4:54 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Also released in '94: "Gin and Juice" and Portishead's Dummy.
posted by asterix at 4:58 PM on January 16


I have a pet theory that most of the so-called "lo-fi" bands really aspired to something more conventional. Their early stuff just was just slathered in noise and post-punk trappings because that's what you could do with a four track.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:58 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Also released in '94: "Gin and Juice" and Portishead's Dummy.

'94 really was a hell of a year for music.
posted by The World Famous at 5:03 PM on January 16


Also Dubnobasswithmyheadman, the first Weezer album, Green Day's Dookie, and Illmatic.
posted by asterix at 5:08 PM on January 16


I have a pet theory that most of the so-called "lo-fi" bands really aspired to something more conventional.

See Nirvana - Nevermind.

Also, I just wanted to point out in case anyone things I am talking shit on Faith No More in my first comment that I still think The Real Thing is a classic album and won a karaoke comp last year doing Epic. It's just a shame that the great album begat so much crap later in the decade.
posted by mediocre at 5:11 PM on January 16


'94 really was a hell of a year for music.

It was, but I personally think 1993 was better. Candlebox notwithstanding.
posted by Rangeboy at 5:16 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


It's just a shame that the great album begat so much crap later in the decade.

By which I mean the "nu-metal" sound that owed a whole lot to that Faith No More/Mr. Bungle blueprint and not the later works of Faith No More. I learned not too long ago to not mince words when it comes to the wrath of Mike Patton devotees.
posted by mediocre at 5:22 PM on January 16


Nice recovery mediocre. FNM definitely paved the way for a lot of crap, but I still love Angel Dust.

Slanted came out at exactly the right time for me, and I still love that album, but I remember Crooked Rain most for my roomate running downstairs in her underwear yelling "I love Pavement" and dancing when I played Cut Your Hair. I still don't understand what happened.
posted by sauril at 5:32 PM on January 16


In honor of this thread, I'm listening it for the first time right now. So far it's OK but not blown away. Digging around on Wikipedia, I realize that I'm familiar with Malkmus from his work on the I'm Not There soundtrack.
posted by octothorpe at 5:47 PM on January 16


For a few albums, man, FNM was great. And one of the highest energy shows I ever saw (and I saw a lot of shows).
posted by Wolfdog at 5:47 PM on January 16


asterix: "Also released in '94: "Gin and Juice" and Portishead's Dummy."

feels bad, man
posted by danny the boy at 5:49 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


The best Pavement records for my money are Slanted & Enchanted and Wowee Zowee. I sort of disagree with the assessment that they kept the classic rock sound of Crooked Rain afterward. Wowee Zowee is much, much weirder than that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:58 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


from article: "For Pavement, already an underground sensation thanks to 1992 debut Slanted And Enchanted, this album marked a massive leap in terms of fidelity and style. Sonically, they traded the static-laden home recordings of their early days for studio work with outside engineers. Crooked Rain was hardly a polished record, but it sounded bright and clear compared to what came before it. Stephen Malkmus’ lyrics continued to be an inscrutable collage of scattered phraseology, ironic commentary on the music industry, and inside jokes interspersed with brief glimpses of relatable human sentiment; in the single “Gold Soundz,” the apparently soul-baring lyric “So drunk in the August sun/ And you’re the kind of girl I like/ Because you’re empty, and I’m empty” exists alongside nonsensical banter like “Did you remember in December/ That I won’t eat you when I’m gone.” But Pavement’s music underwent a substantial makeover on Crooked Rain. The band largely left behind the post-punk framework of Slanted in favor of an easygoing classic rock influence, establishing a template they’d work from for the rest of their storied career."

waxbanks: "it's like the writer went out of his/her way to make this album sound like stupid pointless cash-in BULLSHIT... and succeeded... is the album as terrible as this makes it sound? 'inscrutable...ironic...inside jokes...brief glimpses of...human sentiment...nonsensical banter...easygoing classic rock influence...'?!#@$"

Music often has many of those things - irony, banter, humor, fun, human sentiment. And those are great things. The article and the interviews in it point out quite clearly that this was not "cash-in bullshit" in any sense.

And if you think "easygoing classic rock" is a bankrupt, useless paradigm - please listen to the album, because it is in many ways a treatise on why that's incorrect. Yes, many people in our generation spent that period of our lives thinking classic rock was "cash-in bullshit," that it was utterly substanceless and lame. We were wrong. Stephen Malkmus says something that makes a lot of sense in the context of the record in the interview:

"I was thinking some kind of classic rock, like the Eagles, and riffs that were — I mean, Dinosaur had some of that in it, but I really wanted to put it more in people’s faces that the soft rock ’70s sound could be mined and played off. Also, some of the lyrics were commentary about music about music and that kind of music — that classic-rock Doobie Brothers rich guy archetype myths. I would play around with those when I was doing that kind of music. That was maybe a safety route for us as we were getting more attention, to kind of deflate it or play off it with a knowingness. [I was] kind of feeling a little absurd that we got that much attention. Or just fear — fear of success. Or just fear. But, at the same time, having faith in our chops, and my chops as a songwriter."

Understand that he's being pretty self-effacing - it'd be tough to find anybody who's better than Malkmus as a lyricist in the 1990s, honesty. But there's something beautiful and loving about this, and also it's a California record, so that rockish slant of it makes a huge amount of sense. This is that "ironic" thing; how many of the cool indie kids in the early 90s were thinking about calling back to the freaking Doobie Brothers? That's right, none of them. And it was pretty hilarious that Malkmus would take things like the Eagles as an influence. I mean, it was still tough for people to swallow the fact that the Minutemen loved Creedence, for heaven's sake.

But Pavement music has layers, and the "classic rock" and "California" layers are only two outer layers of what they were doing there. Some exquisite things happened with that record; most of all the key to all of Pavement's music, "Gold Soundz," which is about the preciousness of that "human sentiment" and how important it is to hide it away in order to keep it alive. "We need secrets."

I don't know. I really think you should listen to it. It might be easy to feel dismissive from the outside, particularly looking at these interviews and the way the guys in Pavement carry themselves - with that don't-give-a-fuck carefree thing. Make no mistake: they're an awesome band. Steve Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich in particular are just these peculiar sorts of geniuses who are capable of generating brilliant poetry and musicianship in a completely off-the-cuff way.
posted by koeselitz at 5:58 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


I knew someone who was sleeping with the guy from pavement, on and off. Can't remember her name or his. Jeff? Krista? Anyway, I've never actually heard an album, then or now.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:58 PM on January 16


I still listen to Slanted and Enchanted every now and then. It's one of my all-time favorite albums. I have not yet listened to Crooked Rain Crooked Rain.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:41 PM on January 16


The canonization of Pavement is honestly one of the major enduring mysteries of my life. I mean, they're okay? They're alright? In the way hundreds of other okay-alright bands are? I don't get it. "Gold Soundz" and a few others are pretty awesome, but yeah. Malkmus, man. Guess I'm wigging out at the jagbags.
posted by naju at 7:49 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


'94: "Gin and Juice"

Yeah, Phish really pulled out that one.... Oh shit, I never retagged my MP3s.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:04 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


> 88-95 will be known as the most seminal era of American music.

Considering that rock music basically died after that, it's very hard to see how you could possibly justify using the word "seminal" ("strongly influencing later developments") for that era.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:32 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


I absolutely love Crooked Rain and hate Slanted and Enchanted. I've not ever heard another band that has a discography that is so polarizing for me. I even revisit S and E every so often I can't stand it 20 years later.
posted by photoslob at 8:55 PM on January 16


heaven is a truck...it got stuck.
on the breeze
ask the driver nicely, I need a lift
I need release
posted by jcruelty at 9:09 PM on January 16


Stereo gum.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:28 PM on January 16


I sort of disagree with the assessment that they kept the classic rock sound of Crooked Rain afterward. Wowee Zowee is much, much weirder than that.

Wowee Zowee is an amazing mess. If I'm remembering correctly, a lot of those songs were recorded in the CR,CR sessions.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:30 PM on January 16


Remember when Pitchfork put "Gold Soundz" as the #1 song of the 90's and everyone was like "wtf Pitchfork, that's a great song and all, but seriously?"

And I don't agree with the choice either, but when that track comes on I can't argue with it being in the running. So good.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:47 PM on January 16


I need to sleep why don't you let me

God, It seems like just yesterday we were talking about this on Lambdamoo when it was released.
posted by gamera at 11:07 PM on January 16


I knew someone who was sleeping with the guy from pavement, on and off. Can't remember her name or his. Jeff? Krista? Anyway, I've never actually heard an album, then or now.

I think clvrmnky just defined something here. I'm not clear what though.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I would have just loved to have seen the Pavement, with special guests Guided By Voices and David Kilgour concert!

Concert poster
posted by maupuia at 11:49 PM on January 16


Not a word about the jazzy instrumental 5-4=Unity? That song was mixtape fodder of the highest order.
posted by furtive at 12:00 AM on January 17


Having gone back and listened to the albums after seeing this thread, I think DirtyOldTown might be right, Wowie Zowee is a lot more interesting of a record than Crooked Rain. It's all over the place but the good songs are quite good
posted by jcruelty at 1:12 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I *heart* all Pavement's stuff, and I remember having some kind of spiritual experience listening to CR:CR in my shitty student dorm room, but my favourite record of theirs is Wowee Zowee. Everything that came after that just wasn't quite all there...
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:52 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I love this album so much. In high school I was an obsessed, die-hard Smashing Pumpkins fan. I heard Range Life on my local college radio station and ended up checking out Pavement solely based on that one line about the Smashing Pumpkins. I ended up naming my own radio show after a line in Slanted & Enchanted. My love for Pavement has endured way longer than my now burnt out love for SP.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:47 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


> "88-95 will be known as the most seminal era of American music."

OK seriously now.

1900-1917
- Buddy Bolden plays Jazz in New Orleans; Afro-Creole and African American musicians playing in vaudeville shows take it to western and northern U.S. cities
- Jerome Kern, P. G. Wodehouse, and Guy Bolton write and compose their first Broadway musicals
- Scott Joplin writes ragtime, including "The Maple Leaf Rag" and "The Entertainer"
- George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin start writing their first hits for Tin Pan Alley
- Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, and W.C. Handy are composing and performing the Blues
- Charles Ives composes "Central Park in the Dark", "The Unanswered Question", "Three Places in New England", and "Holiday Symphony"
posted by kyrademon at 6:43 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


The best album of the 1990's was "Spilt Milk", and I'll stand on Thom Yorke's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say so.
posted by thelonius at 7:16 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Seeing Malkmus in a couple of months. Saw Pavement a couple of times. Saw an entire cover concert of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain a couple of years back by a "student" band. These songs are fabulous live as well as on record.

Was going through a lot when I was listening to CR,CR regularly and it always brings back emotional memories.
posted by juiceCake at 8:43 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Can we also give Pavement props for doing the reunion thing well? They took their belated (and well-earned) victory lap, tipped their hats, and said they were done, no more. Not as ideal as actually reforming and cutting more good music, but far superior to the endless cash-in that is the Pixies reunion.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:18 PM on January 17


Yeah, I would group them with the Jesus and Mary Chain as "bands that were better live acts on their middle-aged reunion tour than they were when I saw them the first time."
posted by escabeche at 2:14 PM on January 17


I know some people don't get it, but Pavement totally changed the way I relate to music and the way I play music. I started playing guitar at 19 and was really into electric blues guys (Clapton, etc. ... not even the original guys; I didn't know much about music history). I had grown up on 80s top 40 and didn't have any friends who knew about music. By 22 I got asked to be in a hip indie band whose other members were mostly college DJs (they'd insist that Pavement was "huge" but none of my other friends had ever heard of them ... ). This was in the early 90s. When I showed up playing blues solos and thinking of something like even the Cure as some sort of obscure "underground" band, there was a culture clash of major proportions.

I got given a lot of college playlist stuff to listen do and liked some of it, but nothing really clicked. But Crooked Rain (starting with the college hit Cut Your Hair) just worked for me. I didn't know what to make of it at first. The guitar was messy, the singer didn't seem like he cared, and it was just ... chaotic. But the songs kept getting stuck in my head, and eventually I started to get it. The byzantine lyrics let me project my own meanings onto them (like Dylan's had before). The guitar playing made me *feel* in a way that the one-upping, classically precise metal and jazz guys didn't. Everyone in the band was doing something interesting but not scripted. It wasn't self-consciously lo-fi but it wasn't sterile and ultra-compressed either. There was raw emotion there but it wasn't depressing or super angry. And it was silly and stupid a lot of the time.

I was lucky enough to see them live a few times and I had a grand old time at every show. From CRCR I went back and got Slanted/Enchanted and then later the others as they came out. I loved it all.

Now I'm 44 and I listen to tons of new music, lots of which I like but lots of which seems to be mining the 80s or is what one of my friends calls "sad bastard music", and I keep coming back to Pavement. Each one of their albums has been my favorite at one point. I went through like a year of listening to Brighten the Corners practically every day. I'd say of everything in my collection (which is really Spotify these days) Pavement is the band that makes me feel the best, makes me want to crank it up the most, and rewards my ear the most. I'm bored by a lot of music but not these guys. So many things are going on that I still hear new nuances.

Going to see Stephen Malkmus in a few weeks ... not quite the same, but his solo stuff is still a ton of fun and it *rocks* and makes me laugh. This post makes me feel old though ...
posted by freecellwizard at 7:21 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Stephen Malkmus is still making great records, in case you haven't been paying attention post-Pavement. The new one, Wig Out at Jagbags, is among the best that he's made with The Jicks, in my opinion. It's really fun, really catchy, and full of tasty guitar playing.
posted by Dokterrock at 1:38 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


but what he really wants is to be Damo Suzuki
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


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