The end of the 90s was not signaled by flannel fatigue.
However, the time for the 90s has come again, evinced in one tiny corner of culture by the resurgence and reunion of Pavement, the closing night headliner of the 2010 Pitchfork music festival. Pavement was never a cool band to admire. Their lyrics were about the emptiness of relationships and commercialism, made particularly evident in descriptions of the dry deserts of California and failed careers. This malaise associated with mediocrity was always veiled under surreal lyrics and twists of phrase (like “I saw your girlfriend/She’s eating her fingers like they’re just another meal…Mixing cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar” in “Summer Babe”) to disguise the serious emotions conveyed in songs with titles such as “Loretta’s Scars”, “Ann Don’t Cry”, “In the Mouth a Desert”, and “Stop Breathin’.”
In comparison to many of the other music acts at the 2010 festival, the Slacker-era fashion of Pavement was never so out of place because their baggy t-shirts, disheveled khaki shorts, and picked-up-off-the-college-dorm-room-floor contrasted with the inspired outfits of Neon Indian, Sleigh Bells, and the like. The No Style style of Pavement is what made the band such an emblem of the burnt out 90s. Even the Renaissance Society, a contemporary art space in Chicago, named an exhibition after one of the band’s EPs. The exhibition, of course, was about cool, young artists of the 1990s.
Pavement is less appealing to me than they once were. Less Romantic and cloying than Morrisey, lyrics like “And you’re the kind of girl I like/Because you’re empty and I’m empty” are heartfelt, but a little too selfish, a little too whiny, and really, even if I’m empty and selfish, that doesn’t mean that I want to be or that I’m disaffected enough to want to stay that way. “Don’t expect, don’t expect,” the closing lines of Watery, Domestic are reminders, traces of a way of thinking, but I don’t understand why all the kids in Urban Outfitters are buying into Pavement right now. Seriously, that store plays Slanted and Enchanted. At least it’s better than some of that Emo/Screamo/eyeliner stuff.