*In the advanced liner notes of the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain reissue, the “Elevate Me Later” portion begins: “Elevate Me Later” / An Anti-PC Song
Ah, Pavement. Also known as Cave-ment. They’re kinda like donuts, and I’m Homer Simpson. I was just listening to Cave, the former’s Sunday of 2010 Pitchfork colleague, and one west coast vibe just bleeeeedd into another. It was “Our Singer” that my mind’s little doggie landed on, when I got sick of Cave, with their songs that are seven minutes of the same keyboard riff. Then, way too soothed and lethargic-made, I lunged for the great awakening, ’94’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain album. ’94 — the year you HAD to be good, when brief, intelligent, ironic guitar rock was no longer a novelty.
I learned a lot about Pavement at 2010’s Pitchfork festival. The first thing I learned is that they could give a damn about a crowd of Chicagoans born in the ’80’s. The buzz of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album Real Emotional Trash was still going strong at this point, and understandably so, the Pavement lead singer’s gourd seemed way more aligned with this track of goofy, rocking prog virtuosity.
And “applied learning” is the thing you need if you’re going to have a job, or socialize with other people at any point, endeavors during which it’s important to say what other people want to hear. In which case, you’d say, “Man, that crowd totally SUCKED! They weren’t into it at ALL!”
When actually, Cave blew away Pavement that day. And really, even as a Pavement fan, I don’t mind. I mean, when has a live album ever measured up to what great technicians can get done in the studio? Live albums are for hair bands, they’re what old men fu** on Viagra to.
Ok, maybe I’m getting carried away here, because I HAVE heard good live Pavement tracks, like the “Type Slowly” on the Brighten the Corners reissue, but plain and simple, there are times when Stephen Malkmus gives himself to the audience, and there are times when he doesn’t.
Perhaps rightly so, a lot of musical artists express disdain for the Midwest, either implicitly, by bypassing the geographical region in tours in favor of each coast, or explicitly in lyrics, one of which being Frank Zappa in “Hungry Freaks Daddy,” but also Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty, in what’s actually a fun song, “Down to This,” mentioning the “Chicago man”: “You get the ankles and I’ll get the wrists / You come down to this-ahhh.” And of course, Malkmus himself, in some song on the CR squared reissue, expressing his love and tenderness for us thusly: “I’ve had Christmas in Detroit / How do you think that feels?”
And he’s had hipster suck-up Pitchfork in Chicago. Who the hell goaded him into THAT one? Sounds about as thrilling as watching corn grow.
Some other bands that played at that Pitchfork fest: Beach House, Girls, Broken Social Scene, Built to Spill, The Jesus Lizard… it would have taken a walking mummy not to get psyched up for it. I think underperforming was Pavement’s way of saying, if you listen to our studio albums and are still not satisfied, are still groping for some further hipster culturing, then fu** you.
So who knows, what applies to the Midwest, and what applies to the West Coast? I always just took the West Coast to not be my place, like, I’m feelin’ ya, but at the end of the day it’s just a little expensive and Caucasian. If “Cut Your Hair,” a hipster favorite in and of itself, tells us anything, it’s that you can no longer conquer the world simply by having hair and picking up a guitar. If “Gold Soundz” teaches us anything, it’s what you DO have to do.
The musical simplicity of “Gold Soundz” is almost maddening, in a way, sort of like “Zurich is Stained.” Both are completely and utterly the anti-song: sick to death of climax, sick to death of euphoria, of peak, of American bright-light pog-playing fornication. Plus, the spotlight is on the lyrics, at least mine is. “Gold Soundz” is a comment on hopelessness from in the middle of a great, apparently sexual relationship — one complete with sociological and intellectual nuance, and strict, stone-firm morals. We all know what these are, but the point of the song is, quit fighting. Don’t even try. There are so many damned people in the world, and chances are, they will always reflect something ugly on us, or be better than us in SOME way. And, of course, everybody has “those gold soundz.” Which is why I, Stephen Malkmus, articulate this gesture in such a desultory, resigned exhalation.
Nothing could have followed “Gold Soundz.” This is why the band chose to put a little jazz giddy-up right after it.
I actually would have liked to hear “Gold Soundz” live, but I don’t think they played it. Instead, it was a bath, a monsoon, of “Cut Your Hair” — first a bunch of miscellaneous Chicago vocal-chord champions speculating as to its inclusion amongst themselves, then the actual performance. And was it ever… “Cut Your Hair”! Same lyrics, same chords, even roughly the same tempo. So why is it that, later on the train, I saw a girl who was utterly miserable? Did Pavement fail in their obligation to deliver us all to artistic transcendence? Well, yeah, but that obviously wasn’t their obligation. First of all, the Midwest isn’t their home soil. Second of all, there are no obligations. That’s the whole point of “Gold Soundz,” with its obstinately serene resignation. He’s already breathed the world in, and what it gave him is a seven-bar phrase. He keeps it in a jar, or a see-through can.