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6. Westing (By Musket And Sextant) (1993): Released by Drag City to cash in on the Pavemania that had gripped teens on either side of the Atlantic, Westing collects three EPs, the "Summer Babe" single, and two songs from compilations. Recording quality is poor, but like most lo-fi classics, it ain't that bad. Anyway, the unpolished approach was one borne more from necessity than philosophy. About Slay Tracks (1933-1969): "You're Killing Me" places static where the drums would go, and "Box Elder" plays like tract-home Sonic Youth (with a bridge and everything!), while Pavement tries to resuscitate "She Believes" with SY-style full-band clatter. Demolition Plot J-7 started life in the hands of Scott Kannberg and one-time-only drummer Jason Turner, which may explain the overbearing keyboard line in "Forklift" and the astoundingly trad rock and roll of "Spizzle Trunk." The frantic, effects-laden "Internal K-Dart" blooms into something majestic; it's the best thing here. Perfect Sound Forever focuses on the guitar grunge, and while Malkmus wasn't yet coming correct with the lyrical science, tracks like "Debris Slide" show a band well on its melodic way. As for the rest ... while Pavement has quite the reputation for B-sides and extras, stacked between the promise and its fulfillment, these leftovers do little more than sit there.

In a sense, Pavement was the ideal mixtape band: Their tracks rarely broke the five-minute barrier, and nearly every one could yield gnomic postulates for the title (or at least the subtitle). The first few records, too, looked like musical care packages, blanketed with indecipherable fragments, collaged scraps, and detourned photos. Of course, it took a lot of sweat to produce something so seemingly tossed-off.

Hardcore’s initial capital investment reaped college rock dividends, and after kicking around in a few Stockton, CA punk bands, Stephen Malkmus attended the University of Virginia, where he shared campus-DJ duties with David Berman and Yo La Tengo’s James McNew. Upon graduation, Malkmus, Berman, and future Pavement percussionist Bob Nastanovich got jobs as security guards at the Whitney. True to the insular nature of the early American underground, Malkmus and Scott Kannberg (AKA Spiral Stairs) started Pavement in Stockton back in ’89; at UVA, Malkmus started the group Ectoslavia with Berman and Nastanovich. Bored and buzzed in NYC, the three began fucking around with recording songs, eventually spawning both the Silver Jews and (with the re-introduction of Kannberg and drummer Gary Young and the addition of bassist Mark Ibold) Pavement.

Pavement upended the established dynamics of rigorous touring behind increasingly ambitious works. Their early shows were notoriously sloppy (think Guided by Voices, but not nearly as performative), and after three EPs in three years whetted the underground’s appetite, Slanted And Enchanted dropped, an instant cult classic that packed a moving truck’s worth of ideas and approaches into a stunningly assured debut.

One way to tell how unique Pavement sounded, and how delicate their compositional balance was (besides, like, listening), is to note their astounding ratio of admirers to imitators. The band bore the “slack” label gamely, but it always seemed more of a marketing concept. Pavement claimed new territory on every album, invigorating their sonic vocabulary with dips into country, classic rock, and post-punk. And while Malkmus’s famed lyrics were often the result of a casual process (sometimes happening after the track was recorded), it was still a process. Five albums, nine EPs and a slew of B-sides in a decade isn’t shabby. The Pavement sound may or may not be perfect, and it may or may not last forever, but it dovetailed with indie rock’s growing pains splendidly.

What follows is some kind of ordered reckoning that includes all Pavement’s studio albums and one EP collection. Extracurricular pursuits are not included; Free Kitten fans, find each other in the comments.

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Comments (68)
  1. Lemme get this out of the way:
    Wowee Zowee above Slanted & Enchanted?
    Continue.

  2. any passive pavement fan could rank these 6 albums in their sleep, but yes, this is the correct order

    the writeup for wowee zowee does that album total justice, bravo

    • nah, i disagree.

      6. Westing
      5. Terror Twilight
      4. Brighten the Corners (Blue Hawiian, anyone?)
      3. Slanted & Enchanted
      2. Wowee Zowee
      1. Crooked Rain

      to me, it doesn’t get any better than tracks 1-7 on crooked rain, save for Newark Wilder, which i’m not so keen on. Lions and Frontwards from Watery, Domestic hit the same sweet spots.

      • yes track 1-7 crooked rain, great, but wowee for me has always been the most well-rounded of all of them – a disc i can put on and listen to all the way through. the same could be said for pretty much every pavement record, but for me wowee defines “front to back”

        • well, i’m with you on that. Wowee Zowee is throughly packed with great songs – hell, Kennel District might be my favorite Pavement song of all time. but i still like those first 7 (err, 6/7) songs on Crooked Rain so much that i stand by my list. they’re that good.

      • I like your order better too Ben. Crooked Rain is to me the definitive “front to back” Pavement album. I like the more out there songs on it and it just has a feel that none of their other albums quite achieved. I would flip Slanted & Enchanted and Wowee between 2 and 3 depending on the day but Crooked Rain would always be my 1.

      • this is the correct order

    • although I don’t find wowee to be the best album, I totally agree with you on the writeup, great job

  3. don’t see Wowee here…

    • Sorry, all. Weird glitch. Should be fixed now. (Since I’m here, my personal No. 1 woulda been Watery Domestic.)

      • WATERY DOMESTIC!

        I’m with you.

      • I know this is subject to opinion but how on earth would you rather listen to watery then their other albums….. What am i missing? Because i’ve heard a bunch of other people say this too. Maybe I just don’t “get it.”

        • “Watery, Domestic” is in essence the closest you can ever get to a flawless Pavement record. All four songs are distinguishable in their own right, and each track gives you their full attention. Whether it’s the blaring intro to “Texas Never Whispers” that initially catches you off-guard, or the swooning chorus to “Frontwards,” there are details in this record that you won’t find in any other Pavement piece. Malkmus’ lyrics really start to shape here as well (“Somebody painted over paint painted wood”). What’s also pretty interesting is that this is the last record to feature Gary Young, and the first one to feature Bob Nastanovich and Mark Ibold. If anything, it’s a record that really stands out on the Pavement timeline, and probably a record that wouldn’t be nearly the same if the circumstances were different.

  4. For some reason number 1 is missing at the moment, but anyway it looks like it’s Wowee Zowee.
    I agree with this list. Only change, for me, would be switching Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain’s spots. Good stuff.

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  6. I love Wowee Zowee. Fucking love it. Bryan Charles nailed everything great about it in his 33 1/3 book. A total leftfield masterpiece that deserves all of the accolades it gets today, as well as an album that rightly deserves a vigorous defense in light of how misunderstood it was in its own time.

    That said, you really have to be consciously overthinking things to ever get to the point where you actually put it on after Slanted and Enchanted or Crooked Rain and go, “yeah, Wowee Zowee is better than those.”

  7. Yes, agreed. Exact order.

    Slanted… and Crooked Rain… may have been more important to larger musical trends, but Wowee Zowee is the definitive Pavement album with the full realization of everything that made the band great.

    • Maybe to Pavement fans, but to the world.. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain leaves them all in the dust. You won’t even hear another mention of their albums on top lists… And not to say that’s the end all judgment, but it’s like trying to say Pearl Jam’s “No Code” was better than “Vs” because it was more versatile or the first album that left behind the “Alt-rock” label and started them on their 15 year path of Granola Rock.

  8. There is a correct order, and this is it.

  9. Arguing about album order is silly really. We should all just be high fiveing each other because we all agree that Pavement was a fantastic band that put out a fantastic career of music without a bad album.

    I’ve said it about Pavement before, but they could have only released any one of these albums and they still would be legendary and influential in the world of music.

  10. The order in which I heard their albums throughout high school is the exact reverse order of this list,.No shit.I feel extremely lucky that my introduction to Pavement was Brighten the Corners, which is probably why I like it more than most. I then found a cassette copy of Terror Twilight in a friend’s glove box with a few older tracks on the end and so on. The joy of getting into a band long after the fact.

    Also please disregard all whining about these Worst to Best or anniversary posts. I’ll gladly take reading about how awesome Pavement is over reading about small time music biz gossip and pissing matches.

  11. Fuck the significance, I still think Slanted & Enchanted is the definitive and best executed Pavement album. It just breathed that “lazy yet surrounded by nuanced complexities” that became the staple of the band. “Summer Babe” comes straight out the gate and sets the context for the rest of the album, with “Here” being the only detour. Stephen’s distortion sounds so pleasantly messy and I think Pavement are at their strongest when Mark Ibold’s bass is as prominent as it is on this one. If “Frontwards” would’ve only been written for this album then it would be no-contest.

  12. This is exactly the list I would have made – maybe flip flop Brighten the Corners and Terror Twilight, but I go back and forth over which of those I like the most all the time, so whatever. Wowee Zowee is my favorite album of all time. I’ll never forget hearing it for the first time and thinking it was everything I’d ever wanted in an album. From the guitar solo in “Rattled” to the intro to “Grounded” to “WaaaaaaaaaaaaWAAAAAaHOOOhhhhhhh DIstorrteeeeed Ghosts!!!!!!” in “AT&T” to… well really, all of it is chock full of incredible moments, and it’s fucking brilliant. The other albums are still great too – most bands would kill to be able to make an album as great as Brighten the Corners or Terror Twilight. I’m lucky to have seen them on the reunion tour – they killed it, or at least in my brain it seemed like they did. It was really impossible for me to go into that show unbiased.

    One thing that this list doesn’t reflect, though – Pavement has the most stellar non-album tracks out of any band… ever. Everything on Watery, Domestic; secret knowledge of backroads, greenlander, unseen power of the picket fence, all my friends, harness your hopes, give it a day… really, if you cobbled together a best-of of Pavement b-sides it would be just as solid as Quarantine the Past (for what that’s worth…).

    • agreed – flip flop Brighten the Corners and Terror Twilight.

      • To me, it’s not even a question that Brighten the Corners is better than Terror Twilight, and I’d even go so far as to say that Brighten the Corners is my favorite Pavement album (and “Type Slowly” is the best Pavement song, but I guess we can wait until the ‘top 10 Pavement songs’ post for that argument). But really, I think all their full-lengths save TT could be thought of as ‘the best’ depending on the day, which is one reason I love Pavement so much.

        • I’d say BTC has no less than five of the all-time best Pavement songs.

          • 1.”Stereo” – awesome.
            2.”Shady Lane / J vs. S” – fucking awesome.
            3.”Transport Is Arranged” – awesome.
            4.”Date With IKEA” – decent.
            5.”Old to Begin” – fucking awesome.
            6.”Type Slowly” – fucking awesome.
            7.”Embassy Row” – decent.
            8.”Blue Hawaiian” – awesome.
            9.”We Are Underused” – decent.
            10.”Passat Dream” – i guess.
            11.”Starlings of the Slipstream” – fucking awesome.
            12.”Fin” – let’s do it again from the top.

  13. This list makes me happy. Wowee Zowee is my favorite album by far by them.

  14. pavement has such a scarce and steller discography that listing them by rank seems like a useless endeavor. no offense. but people should just get them all since it’s not like any will disappoint them.

  15. I love this article just because I love this band but I just can’t imagine picking anything other than slanted and enchanted or crooked rain as the #1. I alternate between these 2 when trying to decide my favorite of their albums. In my personal opinion they are both perfect.

  16. Blah blah blah slanted blah blah blah enchanted blah blah number 1 blah blah best blah blah blah disgrace blah blah

  17. I personally would flip S&E and Wowee, but, let’s face it, it’s not exactly as if there’s a wrong order, it’s Pavement.

  18. As someone who was there in ’92 I can attest that there’s no “apparently” about it; “Here” went onto the first mixtape I made for my new senior-year-of-college girlfriend…who subsequently became my wife. While I can’t credit Pavement entirely, they were in there somewhere.

    This list is mostly interesting to me in the way it shows how younger (I’m assuming based on the “apparently” comment) fans regard the albums. For me it was a straight line from Slanted downward. Actually, for me Wowee marks the pivot point where the band’s tendency toward archness started to overwhelm its tendency toward obscurity, and where its burgeoning musicianship started to annoy me–all those on-a-dime start/stops and sing-songy vocal lines that mirrored exactly what the instruments were doing.

    For my money, I agree with some of the commenters above–the band was at the peak of its powers during the “Watery, Domestic” recordings–especially if you include the b-sides to Trigger Cut, “Greenlander” and the amazing songs from their Peel Session highlighted by “Kentucky Cocktail.” Given that I like them best at their most oblique, I think it’s fitting that my favorite album would be one that doesn’t actually exist.

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      • had you actually read dude’s post – as opposed to stopping after the first seven words (or in the case of peen, looking at the picture) – you’d see that it wasn’t even close to being the patronizing finger-wag toward youngsters that you seem to be nauseated over. i for one welcome the old dogs’ perspective; it makes for better discourse around here.

        tl; dr – you guys are fucking lazy.

  19. Not a huge list of albums, and they’re all VERY high quality (not including Westing). So a list like this seems irrelevant to me.

  20. It seems strange to me that Westing (By Musket And Sextant) would be included among a list of long-plays when its compilation record.

  21. Wowee is #1? Wait…WOWEE IS #1?? Comonnnnnnnnn

    Brighten and Terror are severely underrated.

    • I certainly don’t give Pitchfork’s People’s List much weight but I was still very surprised to see that there was no mention of Pavement there (Brighten or Terror were post ’96 and the list is fr albums from ’96-2011) there out of 200 albums…

      Crooked Rain would probably be my #1, just fyi

    • totally agree…I have Brighten and Terror farther up and Crooked Rain down a bit

      • 1.”Stereo” – awesome.
        2.”Shady Lane / J vs. S” – fucking awesome.
        3.”Transport Is Arranged” – awesome.
        4.”Date With IKEA” – decent.
        5.”Old to Begin” – fucking awesome.
        6.”Type Slowly” – fucking awesome.
        7.”Embassy Row” – decent.
        8.”Blue Hawaiian” – awesome.
        9.”We Are Underused” – decent.
        10.”Passat Dream” – i guess.
        11.”Starlings of the Slipstream” – fucking awesome.
        12.”Fin” – let’s do it again from the top.

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  23. I was told Slanted and Enchanted was the most important thing ever.

  24. I thoroughly agree with this list except I would put Brighten The Corners between Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It was when they played Starlings of the Slipstream halfway through their set at Sasquatch two years ago that I knew I was going to be listening to this band for a very long time to come. Then they played Fight This Generation and it REALLY hit, but I particularly remember being really moved by Starlings when I saw them.

  25. GETTIN’ OFF ON THE CANDELABRA, WE CALL HER BARBARA

  26. Reeeally looking forward to “The 10 Best Stereogum Worst To Best Stories From Worst To Best”

  27. Hmm. Crooked Rain’s the best. Followed by Brighten the Corners for me.

  28. The collective underrating of Brighten The Corners continues unabated. Can we get a committee together to put an end to this? That shit has GOT to stop.

  29. Stereogum rarely gets these lists right, but I feel they hit this one spot on. If you disagree with Wow Zow at #1 than most likely you simply haven’t listened to it enough, and are probably judging Pavements music solely by what you’ve read about most.

  30. Well the list is basically right, but somehow you can’t make a ranking for Pavement Albums anyway. Each one is unique, and not compareable with each other – but each one is undoubtable Pavement. Glad to have them all!

  31. I know this is old now so no-one will read this but hey pavement are my faves. wowee zowee is defs numero uno with brighten the corners a must for number 2, both albums are solid as can be throughout. I never really enjoyed slanted & enchanted as much as everyone else though zurich is stained is fairly excellent. pew.

  32. To get to the bottom line first…Put Corners above Twilight and you have the “correct” order. While I might delineate between my favorite Pavement album and their most compelling album (a distinction perhaps sensical only in my own head), Wowee Zowee is the only answer for their “best” record. I look at it as the 90′s indie rock version of Exlie On Main Street…a true messy double album masterpiece.

    Crooked Rain and Slanted are close for 2nd best record, but Crooked gets the nod due to overall top to bottom consistency. Corners is a strong 4th best record…I think it’s pretty underrated. Date With Ikea is up there among the band’s best 5 songs. After that, it falls off a bit with the records that bookend Pavement’s recorded output.

    All in all, not a bad run, particularly from Slanted through Corners.

  33. The Range Life video’s pretty solid aside from “the leather jacket/plaid skirt quintessential 90s girl finding a lunchbox in the sand for some reason” thing. Cut Your Hair has its moments too, but I have to say the Gold Soundz video is preeeeeetty shitty. It’s still not their worst video though – that award goes to the bathtub version of “Rattled by the Rush,” which is just awful.

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