The Return of Pavement

When it comes to rock reunions, you should never say never. Members of splintered bands should never say the chances of getting back are slim either. That’s exactly what Stephen Malkmus said two-years ago when asked about a possible Pavement reunion.         “It hasn’t even been ten years yet,” Malkmus said at the time.        Well, after a decade passed since Pavement broke up in 1999, the band announced that it would go on a tour, which stops tonight at the Mann Center For the Performing Arts.         “You never know what’s going to happen,” Malkmus said. “You should never make predictions. I never said we would never come back together.”        Tensions have cooled in the group, which was one of the most unpredictable bands of the ‘90s, in terms of what the act would record and how it would perform.        Malkmus was the barometer. If he was in a good mood, Pavement could be exceptional as it was during a 1994 Trocadero gig. And the group could be off-kilter, which it was during a 1995 show at the then E. Center in Camden.         But there was no band quite like Pavement during its ‘90s run. Malkmus’ lyrics are often inscrutable. He sings in such a laconic manner that he was dubbed by some journalists as ‘the king of the slackers.’        Peers either loved him or loathed him. “I think he is the Grace Kelly of that scene,” Courntey Love said. She went on to elaborate how Malkmus is graceful and smart.      And then there was Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan, who refused to share a Lollapalooza bill with Pavement because of a perceived lyrical slight in the Pavement cut ‘Range Life.’       “Out on Tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/Natures Kids/They Don’t Have No Function/What They Mean/ I Could Really Give a Bleep/”         “That got way out of hand,” Malkmus said. “It was a tribute to their relevance at the time. It was like reading the headlines. It was a backhanded compliment. They were significant. They made some good songs in their time. He shouldn’t feel too bad.”         Smashing Pumpkins were a careerist act, while Pavement, along with such bands as the Replacements and Nirvana, were reluctant rock stars. It was evident in their manner and lyrics. The words to the band’s minor hit single ‘Cut Your Hair’ revealed that the group was hardly anxious to grab that brass ring.         “Yeah,” Malkmus said in agreement. “It was not about believing in your potential. We came out of a more hardcore punk scene admiring bands like Black Flag and Mudhoney. We were part of a smaller tribe. We were aiming for something else.”      So Pavement, which released a compilation, ‘Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement,’ in March enjoyed middling success. “It was fine,” Malkmus said. “I have no regrets.”        Malkmus laughs when asked to assess the many calculating acts on the circuit, poised to sell as many units as possible.         “Groups today sincerely want to be successful,” Malkmus said. “It’s a new era. Today it’s so different. People are more confident. Maybe it has something to do with their parents. You watch these younger bands. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘I’m great. Look at me.”      Pavement, even on their reunion tour, never has screamed for attention.         “We just have always done things a certain way,” Malkmus said “That’s something that isn’t going to change. The songs are what they are and so is the band.”

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