Despite all the press, an MTV hit and all other atrocities ascribed to them during their heyday, Pavement was one of those bands whose popularity (or rather lack thereof) flew under my radar during the nineties. And I’m rather thankful for that.
I am endlessly grateful that I’ve had Stone Temple Pilots, Silverchair, Green Day, The Offspring, The Smashing Pumpkins—the “alternative” bands of the nineties. That a friend lent me his Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness so I could spend hours and hours of boredom listening to the said double album, rather than someone hand me a tape of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Wowee Zowee. Because I would have probably made the mistake of dismissing these slackers as unrelatable, lousy and lame. Or simply because they’re no Better Than Ezra. But missed them totally I did not. For when the second single off Brighten the Corners hit the DWEB weekly countdown two Saturdays in a row, I was all ears—listening to “Shady Lane”, trying to separate the song from the noise, beneath all static and radio hiss, which was due to poor reception (DWEB was four hours drive from home). That became my then only Pavement experience. And to think of it now, the experience was not so different from listening to Westing or Slay Tracks—because the version of “Shady Lane” I knew was all wrapped up in static and white noise.
Aside from my broken radio experience, there were other things, from which I came to know of Pavement’s existence. There was this music magazine “Hot Hits” that features the lyrics of “Stereo” and “Shady Lane” and a picture of the band. The band’s picture was almost nondescript—any group of regular looking guys could actually pose as them. And on the last page of the mag was the previous week’s Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, in which both songs had charted, among other unfamiliar songs and bands. The magazine’s main feature and the reason I bought that issue in the first place were The Smashing Pumpkins, with the complete lyrics and chords for all the songs from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. There was also a Jim DeRogatis article about the said double album, reprinted from Rolling Stones (with permission I suppose). Later, on a separate issue of the same magazine around early ’98, there was an article in which the editor proclaimed that rock is dead; that aside from Radiohead’s OK Computer and Pavement’s Brighten the Corners, 1997 was filled mostly with duds. Or simply, most alternative bands got boring and people already grew tired of grunge. Hence, the “Rock Is Dead, and electronica is taking over” banner. In reality, it was really more like, the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync took over.
My re-discovery of Pavement took longer time than Spiral Stairs could have ever imagined. It was somewhere between the release of LA’s Desert Origins and Sordid Sentinel Edition that I was able to listen to “Shady Lane” again. This time, with the other eleven tracks on the album—from the opening basslines of “Stereo” down to the “Infinite Spark” fade-out.
I was looking for the band’s hits compilation then (this was years before Quarantine the Past). While I read mostly high recommendations for Pavement’s first three studio albums, I decided to go with Brighten the Corners because of “Shady Lane”. I also read somewhere that it is their most accessible LP, so I thought I’d give a try. Initially, I was only interested on the hits and someone told me to check the first three or four songs on the album, but also suggested that I might as well check the whole album. So spin the whole album I did. And since then I found myself sitting stuck in this Velcro seat, every time I play it.
To be continued…(Maybe.)