Beer and Pavement

Perpetually Living in the Nineties

Posted in Life, Pavement by SM on March 17, 2010

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am perpetually living in the nineties. I obsess over bands who did all their best work over ten years ago; my politic is mired in the discovery of some post-something-or-other during my college days1; and I sometimes think that I’m still 22. Maybe this is what every one goes through. We all sort of stick to that time period when life was fresh and exciting, when we experienced the most as adults2.

So, when it was rumored then announced that Pavement was getting back together, I have to admit that the 22-year-old in me got a little excited3. The band that defined a decade of independent music and much of my coming-of-age years was getting back together for what seems like the unlikeliest of reunion tours4. It was as unlikely as a Pixies reunion or Slint getting back together5. They started out scheduling and promptly selling out a few dates in NYC’s Central Park a year in advance and have slowly added Australia, New Zealand, Europe, nearly every American rock festival, and a handful of US cities. To boot, they’ve even released a best-of LP as an intro to younger audiences6. It’s been a full-on media onslaught ever since.

I first saw Pavement in the summer of ’95. In fact, I saw them twice that year. They were a favorite of mine since late ’93 or early ’94, but I was hooked after seeing them live7. Over the next few years, I would see them play maybe five or six times8. The last time was their final North American date at Cincinnati’s Bogart’s. They didn’t travel through Ohio9 often, so I had to jump on every chance I got.

Honestly, I was a bit slow to the Pavement bandwagon10. I wore out a dubbed cassette copy of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but I didn’t fully appreciate what I was hearing. Grunge bands dominated my CD collection more than anything else in those days11. It wasn’t until Wowee Zowee and the soon-to-follow shows in Cleveland and at Lollapalooza12 that I finally got what Pavement was all about.

Anyway, they’re still my favorite band. Their albums are littered among my lists of all-time favorites and I still listen to them regularly. I really haven’t moved far beyond the original lo-fi slackers of indie rock13 or their brethren. At least every other album I receive in the mail is by a band from that era or heavily influenced by SM and the boys. I like to think I’ve grown, but my taste in music suggests otherwise.

One of my opportunities to see the reunited Pavement is at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and the bands that have me most interested are bands from…you guessed it…the nineties. Modest Mouse, who I first saw in the fall of ’9614, open the fest on Friday night before an also-reunited Jon Spencer Blues Explosion15 takes over Saturday. Pavement headlines the Sunday lineup. Sure, there are other bands16 playing the weekend-long fest in Chicago, but I am most excited about the three bands with ties to last century.

What is wrong with me? It’s not like all my living happened between 1990 and 1999. I grew up in the ’80’s. I don’t want to look like the eighties or dwell on music from that decade17, but it is a big part of me. The aughts are even more wrought with life-altering experiences. The last decade has seen me switch jobs and careers, get married, move nine-hours from my home, and become a parent18. It’s as if the Y2K bug went off in my head, making everything since seem like a hallucination.

Maybe we just stick with what we know best. It gets harder and harder to expand our knowledge base or interests as we grow older. Some of us slow more than others, but we all quit trying to some extent as our responsibilities mount and youthful exuberance fades.

Then again, I think we gravitate to what comforts us the most. It may also be what we know best, but we return for that solace and control of a well-worn pair of jeans, ratty old couch, or warped and scratched LP quicker than learning something new. Is there anything wrong with that?

The trouble happens when we try to force the “good ole days” on everyone else. We reminisce ad nauseum  about how things were better back then, completely discounting the experiences of those who are not of our generation19 but, more importantly, our own experiences before and since. Pavement and other nineties’ indie bands meant a lot to me, but that doesn’t mean a Titus Andronicus20 shouldn’t be meaningful to you or me.

Our heads begin to swell at some point with knowledge and experience, good and bad. We no longer have any room for new information, so it pours out in an effort to keep anything new from entering our consciousness.

So, I will probably continue to live in the nineties. LeBron is no Jordan. Riot Grrrls are the new face of feminism. We’d right this country’s course if Bill were in charge again. Pavement is still the best band in the world…

Don’t give up on me, though. I still have room for something new. Hell, I am in for a whole lotta new as my daughter ages. That and I still follow music, read, and generally pay attention. I may be perpetually living in the nineties, but I do have the capacity to learn and grow.

1…and cooch-flavored cigars. Sorry. Apparently my humor is also stuck in the nineties. Who could resist a Clinton/Lewingsky reference? Not this guy.
2Perceived or otherwise.
3Let’s face it. The 18-35 year old in me was excited. Still is.
4This was meant to come off as sarcastic, cynical even. The trend seems to be start a band, record one or more memorable albums, release them on an indie, create some buzz, break up, reunite once all the “money” is spent, and make some major bank.
5First, see above. Second, these two represent the two extremes of the reunited indie band. The Pixies pieced together several classic records and toured the shit out of their livers and waistlines. Then, they reunited…twice. Slint, on the other hand, really only recorded one great album. Sure, it was Spiderland, but it was only one album and a smattering of shows. They were able to garner a lot of fame and cash from that one release. Of course, it was Spiderland.
6And, in all honesty, for pathetic losers like me who will buy said greatest hits collection even though I own a copy of every track on that comp.
7Despite the stories of terrible live shows which often featured sub-par drumming and SM chastising other band members for not playing their parts correctly, a Pavement set was a memorable rock show.
8I’m never quite sure of the number. I do know that I didn’t see them ten or more times and it was certainly no less than five. Similarly, I saw Guided By Voices well over ten, twelve times, but I’m not sure how many. It’s also like that for Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. I told you that I was stuck in the nineties.
9This explains the number of GBV shows in my pocket.
10So slow that I remember turning down a chance to see them in an art gallery in the spring of ’94. I either didn’t have any money (maybe a $4 cover) or was with a girl or a combination of the two.
11Remember, it was the nineties. Grunge cannot be held against me. That and the number of flannel shirts I wore.
12This was the Lollapalooza that they were blamed for destroying. However, I seem to remember a pregnant Sinead O’Connor playing either just before or right after Pavement. Just sayin’.
13Sorry. Somewhere it is written that the words “slacker” and “lo-fi” must accompany everything said on the Internet and/or glossy magazines concerning Pavement. I believe Spin proclaimed this in 1994.
14Completely by accident. A local band I liked was opening for this “mouse band” at Bernie’s. At a friend’s urging, I hung around to stand behind a pole, completely unaware of what was about to be unleashed. I know that it is hard for folks to imagine a time when Modest Mouse was edgy and punk, but I assure you, dearest reader, it happened.
15The Hipsters have no idea what’s about to happen to them. Jon Spencer will make them submit to his every whim. Judah Bauer will strike fear into every dude with a mustache and Russel Simmons will induce migraines with every blow to his kit. You’ve been warned, Chicago…in a footnote of a blog no one reads, but you’ve been warned.
16I’m most excited/interested to hear/see Broken Social Scene, Bear in Heaven, Titus Andronicus, Panda Bear, CAVE, Sleigh Bells, Here We Go Magic, Cass McCombs, Girls, Lightning Bolt, and St. Vincent.
17I’m not counting anything from the hardcore scene or Manchester, England. Those are things I discovered much later and still enjoy. My musical tastes were limited to whatever Casey Kasem brought me on Sunday mornings.
18All long stories which will more than likely not be discussed on this blog.
19That’s X for those of you who are keeping score. Technically, I’m on the tail-end of GenX, like my parents are barely Boomers.
20I am loving their new record. A review will follow shortly. Hopefully.

15 Responses

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  1. brownie smack said, on March 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    there is nothing wrong with you

    in a broad, sweeping generalization, i would say music post 2000-ish pretty much sucks

    there are rare exceptions of course, but (IMHO) the overall quality of music in the last decade is pretty much shit

    further, i would expand upon this thesis and say that the internet is actually making things worse; pitchfork as a prime example

    seems like, 20+ years ago, when you had to actually (gasp) MAKE AN EFFORT to find new and interesting stuff (as opposed to having it force fed to you thru “hipster approved” media channels), it mattered more, and the bar was much higher

    think a band like the germs would even exist today?

    • builderofcoalitions said, on March 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks for the comment, brownie smack.

      It’s a problem of quantity over quality. There are more bands. There are more ways to get your music out there. Unfortunately, the number of great bands is not proportional to the number of bands in general. In the mid-nineties there were maybe 5-10 really great bands out of 100. Today, there are 5-10 great bands out of 1000, maybe more. And you’re right, the Internet is largely to blame for this. Anyone can get their video seen or music heard with a laptop and wifi connection.

      Conversely, there is some great music out there right now. Where it used to be harder to find bands due to poor distribution, the lack of indie-friendly venues, and an ignorant media, we now have to sort through the thousands of bands who cross our web browsers daily.

  2. Cotterman 223 said, on March 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    re: footnote 11. You did wear a lot of flannel, and listen to a lot of grunge. Alas, we all did. I blame it on the hole in the ozone, Nintendo, and Milwaukee’s Best Light.

  3. ks said, on March 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Glad I’m not the only one.*

    Also: the Titus Andronicus album is quite good.

    *(footnote) Re: all of the above.

  4. builderofcoalitions said, on March 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Ah, the Beast. Remember that time we split a sixer of Heineken and played nothing but Nirvana? Good times. – Cotterman 227

  5. seejae said, on March 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    21 – Never forget it was my Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain LP you dubbed. It was the coolest thing I ever Bought/did in High School.

  6. Jeff said, on March 18, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Hmmm… I think I’m going to have to disagree with almost everything here.

    The 90s were fine, don’t get me wrong. But I totally abhorred (and still do) the whole grunge movement. Part of the problem was that I spent the latter part of the 80s learning to play music (and picked up guitar around 88-89). The guitar players at that time were pretty damn good (even though speed and shredding often had more weight than they should have.)

    Then grunge comes along and *not* being able to play well and knowing nothing about music was suddenly the cool thing. *whatever* *shrug* Plus I have a pretty low tolerance for anything “angsty.”

    We all have music that’s meaningful to us in certain ways but I don’t think anyone can honestly claim that any decade was superior to any other or that there’s less good music out there. Having said that, I’m going to claim the last good decade was the 50s. Ever since Charlie Parker died in 1955 it’s been all downhill.

    And brownie smack: I know you’re generalizing but lol wut? There’s been a crap-ton of great music in the last 10 years!

  7. builderofcoalitions said, on March 18, 2010 at 4:10 am

    Jeff, I’m not sure anyone has claimed that the music of the nineties was the best. My point was to get at the idea of being stuck in a favorite time period, music related or otherwise. I won’t defend grunge, but I do think there’s more to the naïveté and accessibility of the time in question than you’re giving credit. That and you have completely ignored a whole lot of work in the 80’s that was even more amateurish than the guitar players of the grunge era.

    You’re right there has been a ton of great music put out this decade, but I appreciate brownie smack’s sentiment. His (her?) comment made me feel not so bad for liking what I like, even if it is stuck in the past.

    Now, Jeff, don’t even get me started on why you don’t like Neutral Milk Hotel…

    • Zach B said, on March 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      Yeah, re:80’s guitarists: I don’t think a lot of the NY no wavers even knew how to play their guitars, but you’ll still find kids who buy crusty old drum machines for ridiculous prices “because Suicide used to use one”.

  8. carriethewade said, on March 19, 2010 at 1:51 am

    still better than being nostalgic for times you weren’t even really alive for like so many others (read: hipsters+80s; hippies+60s/70s).

  9. carriethewade said, on March 19, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Also recently had a discussion about Sleigh Bells. It reminds a lot of people of a half-assed Kathleen Hanna. It just reminds me of kid rock with a vagina.

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