Steve Malkmus’s (note correct spelling and the fact that he and Spiral Stairs are one and the same, silly) guitar playing, vocals and lyrics are great. Your compulsory cringing over Malkmus’s slight but on-target rants against Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins [Hitsville, March 11] is laughable because you don’t realize that this too does and will fit into the great canons of rock you so guard in the same way the rant on Neil Young in “Sweet Home Alabama” does. It will inspire fights! Besides, it’s funny!
Lines like “keep my affect to yourself” and tasteful homages to the Fall’s Mark E. Smith don’t come along everyday, even from the dozens of other precocious ivy school darlings who really have groomed themselves for alternaland, hence Pavement’s smartassish subtlety. There is no room here for any other musings, face it–music by and for white and well-fed underground types is the demographic at work. People who, not for the sake of being “hip,” but for the sake of identification, catharsis and general good times do like Pavement (who probably grew up with us on Sonic Youth, the Fall, Wire, etc. etc.) They are a band that does care, actually maybe too much. They are cynical but also humorous and wise enough to be self-critical, very self-reflexive and . . . sad about this death of rock thing. See this lyric: “It’s a new era, it feels great, it’s a new era . . . but it came too late.” Crooked Rain is a cultural road map–the tabloidish stories of stars, the road experience, and a few too many drug references to be funny, but not enough to be shocking. The idealism of underground rock via punk is nearly dead, or never was. Pavement’s idols and contemporaries are on major labels and/or heroin. They’re victims of Smashing Pumpkins-like paradigms: those “nature kids” they don’t understand, that’s who they’re supposed to sell records to, right? The new era will not foster creativity or independent thought. The new era is where you live, Wyman. Now that Nirvana et al are household names, what is left to say or do?
Pavement’s music entirely redeems and counters the insult of the industry. Crooked Rain is commentary, humor and to some degree, lament. Pavement know two things: how to write great songs, and that none of this matters any more than Steve Albini’s, Bill Wyman’s, or my opinion.
Still, the Shellac singles are infinitely more interesting than Siamese Dream.
Bill Wyman replies:
Thank you for correcting my spelling of Steve Malkmus’s name; it was a dumb mistake. However, after an investigation into the various and changing nomenclature of the band, I’m pretty convinced that Malkmus and Spiral Stairs are two different people.