CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 4 Feb / 19 Feb]


15 - 11

15. “Fillmore Jive” (1994)

Bookmark and Share

Say goodnight to the rock ‘n’ roll era

The coda to Crooked Rain, “Fillmore Jive” capped off what could be interpreted as Pavement’s concept album about the music industry with an end-of-history toast snuck into one of the group’s sprawling and expansive epics. There’s a sense of artistic ambition to “Fillmore Jive” that stretches Malkmus beyond his comfort zone of cheeky wordplay and thrift-store riffs, as Pavement creates a pretty, panoramic palette here that’s as experimental as this band gets. It’s a bold enough statement that implies the end of the rock ‘n’ roll era could have been the start of something big for Pavement.

14. “Motion Suggests” (1995)

Captivate the senses like a ginger ale rain

Malkmus’ most memorable lines might be the ones that seem like cryptic aphorisms or gnomic nuggets of wisdom, but he’s just as good at setting the scene with descriptive language that paints a picture like you’ve never imagined it. And the world as seen through Malkmus’ mind’s eye is rarely as vivid as it is on the languid charmer “Motion Suggests”, on which the stuff of everyday life becomes all poetic with imagery of “window-passing rainy days” and “ginger ale rain”. As with much of Wowee Zowee, “Motion Suggests” grows on you with an impressionistic impression and its slowly unfolding beauty, proving again that Malkmus isn’t about instant gratification.

13. “Conduit for Sale!” (1992)

I’m trying
I’m trying

While you wholeheartedly believe Pavement mascot Bob Nastanovich when he’s howling the refrain of “I’m trying” as he prowls around on stage performing “Conduit for Sale!” live, the original Slanted and Enchanted version doth protest too much. In other words, it lives up to Pavement’s lazy-ass cred by attempting to dispel the notion—to the point that Malkmus’ voice cracks by the end of the song. But considering the way Malkmus delivers the lines with increasing earnestness and agitation as his Fall-like spoken word moves towards entropy, it’s like he knows you don’t really believe him.

12. “Zürich Is Stained” (1992)

I can’t sing it strong enough
Cause that kind of strength I just don’t have

Coming on the heels of “Conduit for Sale!” on the Slanted tracklist is “Zürich Is Stained”, which is the closest thing to Pavement’s honest-to-goodness slacker anthem. With the vocals mustering barely enough strength to croon along to the wobbly, slip-sliding guitars, “Zürich” makes giving up on trying and throwing in the towel into infectious indie rock. It’s a testament to the way Malkmus can seemingly toss off lines that somehow make you think they’re more profound than they initially seem. Or maybe it’s harder work to be on cruise control that we give him credit for—as he tells it later on the track, “You think it’s easy / But you’re wrong.”

11. “Give It a Day” (1996)

They want to have it, Cotton’s dream
But Increase had them mounted
And they burned on open fires

Stephen Malkmus studied history in college, and it’s his vast knowledge of trivia and cultural ephemera that makes Pavement’s songs so rich and deep in their allusive nature. To really get into Malkmus’ head, you often felt like Pavement records shouldn’t have just come with lyric sheets, but with annotations and a concordance. No matter how much an indie smart aleck thought he knew, Malkmus gave you the idea he knew more. To cite one of the best examples, “Give It a Day”, off the obscure Wowee-era Pacific Trim EP, made the Salem witch trials its source of inspiration, taking the moldy oldies out of the textbook and cramming ‘em into a rowdy ditty.

Related Articles
18 Aug 2014
The goal of indie rock is to make something real, even at the expense of decades of music tradition.
9 Jul 2014
Whether you're at the beach or just hanging out in the backyard, these timeless summer classics are sure to make the summer sun shine a little bit brighter.
6 Jan 2014
Parsing Stephen Malkmus' lyrics has been an indie pastime for going on close to a quarter century, so can it be any surprise that Wig Out at Jagbags serves up its fair share of lines that beg for reading too much into?
12 Apr 2013
I saw your girlfriend and she was eating her fingers, just another meal. But she waits there in the levee wash, mixin' cocktails with a plastic tipped cigar and listening to the 124th most acclaimed album of all time.
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.