Yeah, the first chord of this record has been etched in my mind for ten years, which is only half of its life out there in the pop music echelon. I didn't see it hit the street on April 11th, 1995, and didn't even know it was recorded in New York and Tennessee - not LA - until about 4 months ago. That being said, Pavement has been a part of my consciousness as a listener since I was in single digits. Strolling around my aunt and uncle's house, I can remember spotting a poster in my cousin's room alongside Beastie Boys and Ween paraphernalia. Maybe, after all this time, we could just talk about the album, and about how it's the best thing Pavement ever did, together.

Fittingly, 'We Dance', the beginning of the album and the end of countless Stephen Malkmus live sets, encourages people to get together. Whether or not the intention was supposed to be romantic remains a mystery to me; it sounds so, but then there's also talk of Freudian castration fear, a song of praise, and not having a clue anymore, mixed in with what could be considered lyrical courtship. I've actually always felt lonelier after listening to it, which is alright considering the dreamy 'Rattled by the Rush' follows. Anything that can work "shirt smell worse than your lying/caught my Dad crying" into the narrative is okay by me.

I love understanding track titles and placement, but to pontificate about the individual songs is to sort of miss the point about an anniversary piece. Like many Pavement fans, I find it impossible to describe Malkmus's 1990s without direct relation to my own experiences. With Wowee Zowee, it's best to ignore the order, let the record play, and see what sort of memories it conjures.

I can remember sitting in some class in high school, scribbling Pavement errata in my planner, reliving a weekend I'd just had at a brother's state university. I'm writing lyrics to track 3, 'Black Out', across the two days worth of "homework". A girl sitting next to me asks what it means. I scratch my head. It's probably the best song on an album from a band she's never heard of and it is, apparently, kind of a personal story. In the song, Malkmus struggles to communicate as he admits "you've got no one when you're talking," and I couldn't help but see the parallel of the moment I found myself in. This is less lonely than it seems since I was connecting with Pavement's style, which had just as much resonance for my teenage years as I'm sure it did for kids in the '90s. As an 18-year old in 2008, I was probably just looking for some form of escape, supposedly prepping for adulthood in a big way. I needed the song then, and still love how 'Brinx Job' is the song right after 'Black Out', where "we got the money!" is the repeated phrase, flaring the band's propensity to goof off and tone down the seriousness right when it starts to feel depressing.

But, were they joking or were they being serious? Wowee Zowee's most memorable qualities hinge on this. 'Here' and 'Gold Soundz' came before, and 'Stereo' came after, making the record a definite crossroads of the band's emotional spectrum. Both sides of the coin are represented in full on 'Grounded', where Malkmus glosses over psychedelic drug use while picking apart the question of "which boys are dying on these streets." Only the accompanying guitar line could combine such seemingly unrelated sentiments. It doesn't end there, but putting all this song's examples of duality would involve reciting every word.

How did I ever make it through the tracklist? I was concerned about being unfamiliar with the back half, but what I found was that I knew all the words, just not the titles. This is probably due to the fact that back then I was doing a lot of listening in mom's van through a scratched-to-shit, burned copy of the album. Getting to a decent record store in central Illinois took about 30 minutes, which gave me time to simmer in the scattershot styles and sounds, driving around, stoned, taking in the tracks as held awkwardly up by 'Grave Architecture' - another piece on both seriousness and folly. Malkmus meanders around fallen monuments and the decay of the strip he strolls past before proclaiming he's "fuckin glad, glad to see that I know what it means" - "fuckin's" usage temporarily knocking me out of the dreamy suburbia Malkmus details. It's probably my favorite Pavement song.

Last week, I turned to that same older cousin for some "answers" about what it was like to experience Wowee Zowee in 1995. What I got instead was a 30-minute conversation about how much we both like Pavement - and about how Wowee Zowee remains the most inaccessible, hit-less record in the band's discography. He wasn't able to tell me anything I didn't already know, revolving around how Wowee Zowee is too long and far more linear than most '90s rock albums. As such, you can clean your whole house across its length, pausing every few minutes to shout a quick "oh yeah" of approval: when Malkmus howls on 'AT&T', the absolutely exquisite pedal steel on 'Father to a Sister of Thought', when the band gave up on 'Grave Architecture' and started the whole song over again, or Bob Nastanovich's backing vocals on 'Serpentine Pad', which remind the listener that Pavement weren't exactly sure what they were constructing either.

Or were they? Playfulness is met with tenderness, oftentimes within the context of a single song. But, was that the plan? It's pretty clear that the band wanted a break from pop stardom and had too many ideas buzzing around to continue upward on the charts. So, they just put all of them onto Wowee Zowee. The little country lick on 'Western Homes' is a perfect example: I can almost hear them in whatever space they were practicing in in late 1994: "This random stylistic digression sounds kinda cool. Let's just record it." And there's the song: It's something that was replicated all over Terror Twilight: one idea that they didn't think too hard about, recorded, and moved on. Hearing the results across the record remains fun since the band's enjoyment is tangible. It's likely this was partially induced by excessive marijuana use, but it feels trite to even bring it up. If Pavement needed to deconstruct and burn the expectations surrounding Wowee Zowee to a crisp in order to maintain sanity, then that's what they needed to do. It's the album they made for themselves, and I always smile in their genuine desire to not please anyone but themselves. They were met with fanfare and radio love on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and who wouldn't need to take a step back after the kind of success that only comes from songs like 'Gold Soundz' and 'Cut Your Hair'. Pavement ended up having Brighten the Corners to joke and play ironic about being rock heroes, but had to expurgate some stress first.

I'm 24 now, and I'm talking to a coworker (who's 20) about writing this piece. It's been established that Wowee Zowee is our favorite record by Pavement. It doesn't matter what age we were in '95 (although I do hazily recall the atmosphere of '90s alternative radio). The album is so timeless because Pavement seemed to care so little about "taking the next step" in their career. They were playing chess while any other band would have been playing checkers. Nirvana had tried to make something inaccessible with In Utero, and inadvertently ended up making their best record that was as equally loved as the others. Even Weezer tried to push their sound forward, and similarly ended up with their most seminal work in Pinkerton. Pavement also stretched their fanbase's patience, but nothing about Wowee Zowee sounds like they set out to do that. Whilst many albums possess a similar sound, none achieve it with such effortless grace.

Wowee Zowee is the third studio album by Pavement, and was released on April 11th, 1995 via Matador/Warner Bros. Records.