Pained & Disdained

Pavement may spit on their audience, but their aim is true

But it's a long, strange trip nonetheless, and the album's overarching tone can still descend into a moody rumble. Like a gaggle of old hippies jamming--hell, at times like the Grateful Dead themselves--Pavement often threaten to ramble on with a complacency that comes when you've freed yourself from the expectations of others. And yet they never quite do. Though the guitars glance off half-acknowledged melodies, an invisible hand of impeccable taste reins them in with a dynamic shift just when the band threatens to veer into its own navel. Hardly HORDE-ready good-time boogie, this, but it's still more musically limber--and ideologically sensible--than the intricate technophobia of Radiohead's OK Computer, with which Terror Twilight shares producer Nigel Godrich.

In retrospect, Pavement's mid-'90s gestures toward accessibility seem like acts of noblesse oblige more than career moves. Just as a page poet self-consciously employs the formal constraints of an outmoded rhyme scheme, the band had the good sense to exploit pop's constrictions rather than noodle into free-form oblivion while Malkmus performed his spoken-word poetry. True, the group shrewdly hedged its bets between selling itself and selling itself short, and those who prefer their cult band of choice to engage in the drama of cultural insurgency--or at least to have some subcultural relevance--have every right to excuse themselves from the Pavement bookmobile.

But now it's 1999, and Nirvana's crusade to demonstrate that you don't have to wear leather pants to sing pop-metal on MTV has proven so successful that the Goo Goo Dolls are now free to wear leather pants and sing pop-metal on MTV--with impunity, even. In the end, perhaps Pavement's hermetically sealed simulacrum of a career took a wiser route than punk revolutionaries or pop democrats would care to admit.

 

Pavement perform at First Avenue on Monday, June 7 at 10:00 p.m. and Tuesday, June 8 at 6:00 p.m.; (612) 338-8388.

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