Probably would elicit significant disagreement on this board.
"It's interesting the comment regarding positive reaction towards listening to the bootlegs from the first Pavement reunion tour.
I saw Pavement Live during the first reunion tour and Stephen Malkmus went on stage appearing to be sedated and near anesthetized state. I suspect some sort of excessive sedative use. His eyes were closed and his head was leaning towards his left shoulder throughout the performance and he seemed about to fall asleep at any time. The vocals appeared to be muffled and playing sloppy throughout the gig. He did not talk to the audience throughout the concert with Bob Nastanovich doing all the talking. Let's just say I am not rushing out to purchase tickets for the second reunion tour based on my first impression as a live act.
My opinion towards Pavement is far less enthusiastic than everyone in this podcast although I appreciate listening to a hardcore fan perspective. I got all 5 albums and even the Slow Century DVD and I like all five albums to various degrees (even Terror Twilight). However I never develop significant love for the group (let's say in my list of a favourite artist of all time, Pavement are currently number 133).
I listened to them due to the constant comparison between them and Blur's Self-titled album (which is my favourite Blur album) as well as the Nigel Godrich connection with them due to being a Radiohead fan which led to Terror Twilight being my first listen.
I guess my main issue is that I find the statement from Jeff that mentioned that Pavement is a good pop songwriter and that he merges songwriting craftsmanship with the slacker attitude to be somewhat debatable. My views are that he is a good songwriter in theory but not in practice. If anything Pavement showed the slacker rock attitude was impeding his songwriting.
The way Stephen Malkmus sings the song is with a sing/speech approach whereas his slacker approach of too cool to care to sing means that there isnít a clear vocal melodic hook. If we define songwriting as melodic writing and the vocalist is speaking through the majority of the verse and doesnít elicit a melody and you canít notate what he is singing, then does the song really demonstrate good songwriting?
I guess if hypothetically he did decide to clearly sing all his notes, I think he does have the potential to write killer pop songs with great melodies because he demonstrates the ability to write a good chorus and his guitar playing is often highly melodic and often the catchiest melodic part of the song. However, with Pavement itís a difference between potential and demonstrated ability and I donít think Stephen Malkmus really demonstrated he was a consistently good songwriter. Maybe he demonstrates his songwriting chops with isolated songs like Trigger Cut but I donít think he was able to do this consistently for entire albums. Often the Pavement songs have a melodically underwritten verse and either a decent guitar riff or a decent chorus to counterbalance it which makes me like the song without loving it.
Scott mentioned Stereo about how the song seemed to come together in the chorus and I agree it is a killer chorus. However, when the verse is a rambling jumbled-up mess, what should have been a great song is only a good song because a great song should have both a great verse and chorus.
I will say however that Pavement does have a strength in the song having a sense of dramatic arc and contrast in the songs. For example the song Unfair I donít think itís a particularly melodic song. But what it does have is the crescendo Beverlyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy WALK!!! and the loud/soft contrast between the chorus and the verse. As someone who thinks dramatic arc/contrast etc are good things in themselves. Itís a song that I like even If donít particularly think itís particularly melodic.
Stop Breathing has a single decent hook in the chorus ďstop breathing, stop breathing nowĒ but I donít care for the vocal melodies for the rest of the song it has a fantastic ending with the ringing guitar and gradual build-up with the drums and then the sudden grungy riff.
Grounded works in terms of contrast and build-up as well and I like the guitar playing and contrast of the arpeggio intro and the sludgy guitar riff (which effectively serves as the chorus of the song) even if I donít particularly care much for the vocal melodies.
My summary is that I think Pavement is a good arranger who gives the song a good dramatic arc and I think the songs have excellent guitar playing where there are some memorable melodic riffs but I donít really think he is a particularly good vocalist due to his sing/speech approach and his songwriting ability is only potentially good rather than actually good. So no I donít think they are the best band of the í90s and it has to go to Radiohead who has written 3 all-time great albums in that decade (yes including Pablo Honey)
My two album picks are:
Brightened The Corners
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
5 Songs Pick:
Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite At :17
Rattled By The Rush
Spit On A Stranger"
Anyway my album rating
Westing (By Musket and Sextant) 6/15
Slanted And Enchanted 10/15
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain 11/15 (Hex A)
Wowee Zowee 10/15
Brighten The Corners 12/15 (Hex B)
Terror Twilight 10/15
Live Europaturnťn MCMXCVII 10/15
I know most hardcore fans recommend the 2CD release. However I only identified one good track out of the 5 reissue which is the cover of The Killing Moon during the BBC session.