Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was released on February 2nd, 1994 y Matador Records. It was recorded between August–September 1993 at Random Falls Studios in New York.


"You've never heard Crooked Rain?" Oliver asked me.

"I've been meaning to get into Pave-"

"Rob, answer the question. You've never heard Crooked Rain?"

I directed my attention to the floor, I could feel my cheeks burning red with embarrassment.

"No." I replied.

Oliver leaned forward in his seat, his hands placed on the desk before him as though ready to lunge forward and hit me, should I say the wrong thing. His eyes were narrowed and unblinking.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, "I didn't quite hear that."

"No." I repeated, "I've never heard Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement."

He reached down to a drawer in his desk and pulled an object out - a CD - which he slid across the desk to me.

I picked it up, the album title was written in marker pen across an otherwise blank label.

"What's this for?"

"For you to listen to, you moron. Listen to it, write about it, mark it off your bloody list. Then rinse and repeat for every other legendary record you've been selfishly ignoring."

***

It's strange listening to an album that's twenty years old for the first time. Whilst everyone who has listened to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain a thousand times already will have their own intimate connection to the album, the new listener lacks all of this and so the record has to stand up on pure musical and lyrical merit alone. For me there are two direct problems - the 90s counter-culture that this album was rooted in has been over for a long time and I'm now past the age where this album could have reasonably become a soundtrack to my life. Yet as Pavement fans are already aware, this is the work of a band who were never intent on scoring mainstream success at the time. They refused to be interviewed by Rolling Stone and stuck with independent labels despite moderate chart success for some of their singles - notably the ones that came as a result of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

In some respects this has also helped the longevity of the album. Musically the record sits somewhere between Sonic Youth's late '80s output (Sister and Daydream Nation) and classic rock. Opening track 'Silence Kid' starts with an almost psychedelic guitar intro before the band properly kicks in. It feels loose, unrehearsed and ultimately honest. That's true for the whole album and it still sounds fantastic. Mark Ibold's bass and Steve West's percussion are strong throughout, whilst the guitars, front and centre of every song wail and growl as much as any '90s indie kid could want - yet what is really excellent is how unpolished it sounds. The harmonies in 'Elevate Me Later' are a little off, but that adds to the charm. Even on my first listen I understood why people had taken Pavement to their hearts so readily, and why they are so vocal about them whole decades later. The simple fact is Pavement could have been your band, or at least your mate's band - if only either of you were able to write songs as touching and entertaining as Steve Malkmus.

Many songs have ridiculed the music industry's obsession with image, but none have managed it quite so succinctly as 'Cut Your Hair'. "Advertising looks and chops a must" sings Malkmus before yelling "no big hair!". So far that line hasn't failed to make me laugh, but really it's the following line that captures the ideology of the music industry - particularly back in the '90s before the likes of Napster ruined everything (for the traditional paradigm at least).

"Songs mean a lot / when songs are bought"

Art as commerce. That line is probably my favourite one on the record as it just says so much to me. It tells me about the ethos of Pavement, it encapsulates the '90s slacker-culture's distrust of business (you hear the sentiment all over songs of the era, but rarely is it vocalised so simply) and it's also very funny. And that sense of humour and playfulness has really helped to build a strong, and rather immediate, fondness for Pavement's music as I'm sure it has for their more long-term fans.

I'm not sure how I've managed to miss out on Pavement after all these years, and that fact has really been bothering me the last few days as I revel in the bossanova-esque oddity of '5-4=Unity' and the country tones of 'Range Life'. But a thought occurred to me. If it isn't too late to discover Pavement for the first time, perhaps it's not too late for these songs to become an important part of my life. After all, the true power of music is its ability to free itself of the constraints of time and place and be anything to anyone.

  • Tracklisting:
  • 1. Silence Kid
  • 2. Elevate Me Later
  • 3. Stop Breathin'
  • 4. Cut Your Hair
  • 5. Newark Wilder
  • 6. Unfair
  • 7. Gold Soundz
  • 8. 5-4=Unity
  • 9. Range Life
  • 10. Heaven Is a Truck
  • 11. Hit the Plane Down" (Scott Kannberg)
  • 12. Fillmore Jive