Live. 1997. Koln, Germany. Never hated the song “Kennel District,” but the Preston School of Industry has always been the butt of many extremely nerdy indie-rock inside jokes, right? The specter of Pavement as an incredible live band also lingers as a punchline. I’ve got a few pieces of evidence to go on – the Crooked Rain era, still in a small venue, with GBV as an opener…or….the Lollapalooza (you’re gonna have to play “Cut Your Hair” and why not?) baking in the sun version of the band…or ….the “definitely the last tour” Pavement would ever do Pavement (wherein Mr. Stephen Malkmus goes off). It should be understood that whichever era that you saw, Pavement were quite an amazing spectacle to behold in any format (if only for the consistent demeanor and guitar prowess of Malk). This recently record-store-day vinyl-only release proves that.
Basic evidence of this can be found in the manic solo on “Fin,” which here sounds like Malk’s grand finale, for the band and for the Pavement trademark. In listening it almost seems like Malk was Cobain with a good head on his shoulders, having the foresight to know that things were crumbling, but instead of sulking into horse and public misery, started building his solo endeavors within the Pavement architecture. A song like “Blue Hawaiian” with its chilled séance intro and its wave-bending chorus imagines the path Malkmus would take, especially since the Steely Dan quality of the mood is momentously interrupted with another Malk solo kind of crying its way out until the very end. This live album shows the depth that the band was working with even towards the twilight – “The Hexx” and “Transport is Arranged” were hefty staples included to show a “maturity” post-Wowee. And even if Malk was fed up, he allows Spiral Stairs to have his day as there’s “Date w/ IKEA,” not one of my favorites, and a raucous version of the aforementioned “Kennel District.”
Not sure where I'm going here....but going beyond just the itchy anticipation of seeing Pavement again, reunited, reconciled, I’m just as interested to see what they’d play and how they’d play it, and if they still have the chops they once had. Plus S.S. prolly needs a summer job.