Volume 93, Issue 6
Friday, June 18, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Major highways await Pavement
Photo by Gail Butensky
NEXT TIME I GET TO BE THE CABOOSE ON THE LOVE TRAIN. Former indie darlings Pavement share thoughts on a new album, a mainstream sound and body heat.
By Mark Pytlik
Take a haze of slightly awkward chiming guitars all churning out small blasts of melodic riffs. Now combine it with a slightly sloppy and irreverent production value.
Add to this a lead vocalist whose obtuse and often hilarious lyrics are topped only by his incredibly expressive and slightly geeky voice. Surely, we're talking about Californian college darlings Pavement, right?
Well technically, yes, but maybe not for much longer. While the band has always been known for their slightly off-kilter sound, they've just released an album which may well change all that.
Terror Twilight is Pavement's fifth proper record and is being billed as the band's "most serious" effort. Produced by current producer-du-jour Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck), this latest effort is said to be more mature and palatable than previous outings. Translation: Pavement have finally made a record which stands to be championed by everyone, not just college indie rock types.
On the phone from a hotel room somewhere in Minneapolis, drummer Steve West is dutifully composed when the band's new sound is mentioned. "The album is polished, but I don't think the songs are any more poppy than on previous albums," he says.
"They aren't really radio friendly, but they're definitely radio prepared. These are songs that could go on the radio if the timing's right. Which means the endings don't fall apart and we sing in tune."
A bold idea, especially for Pavement, who've built their career on being intentionally sloppy. According to West, Terror Twilight is a natural progression for the lo-fi heroes who are currently in the midst of their 10th year as a band.
"You always wanna do things differently. After you've made five albums you have to create a new environment for yourself," he says. "Spending more time on a record just feels like the logical thing for us to do."
This is not to imply the band have grown out of their penchant for interesting couplets. Lead singer Stephen Malkmus, touted by many as one of the most intelligent men in rock, turns in another intriguing batch of lyrics for this latest effort.
According to West, though, sometimes too much emphasis is placed on Malkmus' stream of consciousness ramblings. "For him [the attention] can become kind of tedious. He enjoys the lyrics but it's just something that comes out," West explains.
"It's not as pre-meditated as his melodies and his guitar lines are. Luckily, he's really talented with lyrics and doesn't really have to think that much when writing them."
In the meantime, Pavement are embarking on a North American tour to promote this latest effort. Preliminary shows, according to West, have gone down in typical Pavement fashion. "They're not necessarily perfect sounding, but they've been good spirited," he confesses, almost guiltily. Apparently some things never change.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999