Everything I Know About Love I Learned From... Pavement

Insights on romance from the recently reunited indie legends.

Everything I Know About Love I Learned From... Pavement

By Ray Rahman

My favorite band from adolescence reformed this year after a decade-long hiatus. In retrospect, for a musical guide through my teenage years, Pavement was a strange choice. Every girl I knew hated them; for every mixtape I gave to a crush, I would watch them fast-forward through "Summer Babe" or "Gold Soundz" to get to whatever dumb Modest Mouse song I'd put next. In fact, girls I didn't even know yet hated the band; by the time I got to college, all the cool chicks would be into harsh noise bands (Black Dice, Wolf Eyes) or trendy bands with repetitive names (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, !!!). Pavement, it seemed, was for a specific breed of dude, the type clueless enough to admit to still liking '90s indie rock. Yet I still maintained a satisfying love life. Why did my love life survive? Possibly because as an obsessive Pavement fan, I gleaned these invaluable tips about love and dating:

1. You gotta grow up. 

At their noisy beginning, Pavement was a group of snotty, over-educated punks. On Westing (By Musket and Sextant), a compilation of their earliest material, the subject matter ranges from punching dudes in the eye ("Debris Slide") to lying about being STD-free ("She Believes"). But after the success of Slanted and Enchanted, the band got serious. (Just ask Gary Young, the rowdy, alcoholic drummer who was kicked out of the band around that time.) The music got mellower, and songs about Volkswagens ("Passat Dream") and secretaries ("Type Slowly") prevailed. "I never had any children, and I never wanted them/ But now, now I'm getting older, maybe I'd like to fuck a woman and make one," Stephen Malkmus sang in 1993's "Same Way of Saying." And though it took twelve more years, he eventually did just that.

2. Don't dumb yourself down.

If Nirvana was the Harry Potter of the '90s, tortured and insecure about its stature, then Pavement was the decade's Hermione Granger. Their cultural elitism ("Range Life"), famous Scrabble skills, and general uppityness annoyed some (Courtney Love called Malkmus "the Grace Kelly of indie rock"), but who likes settling for less? When Cobain and company were busy dropping out of high school and covering the Pacific Northwest with "God is Gay" graffiti, the Pavement lads were attending a college founded by Thomas Jefferson and working at the Whitney Museum of Art. I'm not saying one path is better than the other, but I am saying that one will win you a hotter girlfriend.

3. Stop talking about yourself. 

Pavement's songs are often obtuse, impersonal riddles, and the band was (and still is) tight-lipped about their own mythology. A smart move, since there's definitely something appealing about mystery (and something unattractive about people who never shut up about themselves). "Well, my heart is not a wide-open thing, I know," Malkmus admits on "Ann Don't Cry." And while too much distance will inevitably result in relationship problems, you still need to know when to keep things to yourself. 

4. Own it. 

Pavement never tried to be anything besides Pavement. The albums, from track titles to cover art, feel like inside jokes, and the band's nonchalant preppy style stood apart from the ambitiously disheveled grunge that was hip at the time. The members never dyed their hair or wore rose-tinted sunglasses or even disavowed their upper-middle-class background. One listen to "Cut Your Hair" (or, frankly, most of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain) will reveal their distaste for such rock-'n-roll posturing. Thank goodness, too, because it turns out that posers are not sexy.

5. Know when to end it.

Pavement could've kept grinding out mediocre albums for another decade. They were poised to be "the next Radiohead," an odd association reinforced by the fact that Radiohead engineer Nigel Godrich produced Terror Twilight. But the band wasn't having fun anymore; at one show, Malkmus hung handcuffs from the microphone stand and proclaimed them a symbol of his time in the band. That show, thankfully, was their last. There's nothing worse than a relationship dragging on longer than it should. Right, Modest Mouse?

Commentarium (16 Comments)

Jul 02 10 - 12:38am

love pavement, love modest mouse still. old & new

Jul 02 10 - 9:50am

Great piece. I love boys who love pavement.

Jul 02 10 - 9:51am

Can't wait for the reunion show in New York!

Jul 02 10 - 11:49am

Chumbawamba is the Ron Weasley of the 90's.

Jul 02 10 - 12:59pm

Agree with alina. Modest Mouse is still good!

Jul 02 10 - 1:03pm

and 311 is Draco Malfoy. obviously the coolest and most badass band of the 90's.

Jul 02 10 - 1:22pm

The Foo Fighters are Dumbledore's Phoenix.

Jul 02 10 - 1:56pm

this girl loved pavement in high school, college, and to this day as a 30 year old corporate drone. not just for boys.

Jul 03 10 - 2:35am
Warren Beaty

Everything thing you need to know about love is neutral milk hotel.
1) Her name will intrigue you and you'll never forget it
2) she'll change everything for you , the past and future 3) give you 6 great years and then leave you
3) you'll compare her to every new girl you meet
4) she's not coming back

Jul 03 10 - 2:53pm

Listen to Jawbreaker, any album will suffice

Jul 05 10 - 3:24pm

here here, well said Warren Beaty

Jul 05 10 - 3:44pm

i think you must've known some pretty lame girls. also, really REALLY cool girls would've thought yr Pavement choices were...kinda obvious? sincerely, a die hard female fan.

Jul 06 10 - 11:40am

Funny. Most of the "girls" I've ever known, cared for love or at least like Pavement. Maybe you were hanging around the wrong crowd. Sort of a lame post, IMHO. Are you going to tell us next that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

Jul 07 10 - 11:02am

OK, i am a girl who loves pavement. but i always thought that just meant i was over the age of twelve sometime during the '90s or early '00s.also: did you really try to pass off "summer babe" and "gold soundz" as willfully obscure? those are big, melodic, nostalgic pop songs. and, actually modest mouse in the '90s was way, way more dissonant, weird and difficult to like than stephen freaking malkmus who was by then the indie crown prince.

Jul 09 10 - 3:54am

I puked about midway through this, my precious boy.

Jul 15 10 - 8:48am
Spiral Stairs

Poised to be the next Radiohead? Uh...