Pavement | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Too much has already been written about Pavement, of course, those smart-aleck popsters with a penchant for carefully framed obscurity, splotches of noise, and monster hooks that they're hesitant to expose. In the late 80s the duo of Steve Malkmus and Spiral Stairs blurted out largely structureless nascent pop tunes smothered in lo-fi transistor noise, documented on Drag City's Westing (by Musket and Sextant); since then the noise has slowly eroded, formalism's gingerly creeped in, the melodies have gotten stronger, and Pavement have become salable, not to mention critical darlings. (There's a whole cadre of east-coast scribes who believe they alone can explain the intricacies of a Pavement record.) The band is getting significant airplay on two local commercial radio stations, who fought bitterly for sponsorship of these shows. Diplomatically, as Pavement would surely have it, they each got one (Q101 the early all-ages show, 'XRT the late show). Pavement aren't worried about selling out; they won't. The problem at this juncture is rather that they seem uncomfortable with hits, with "Cut Your Hair" playing in dry cleaners and newsstands. That might be why they've sabotaged their latest album, the ridiculously lauded Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Matador), with structurally and artistically functionless blurts, antisong passages, and cheap shots (albeit funny ones) at Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots (on "Range Life"). None of this is to suggest that Pavement should become resolute hit makers; they'd be better off sharpening their once-razor-edged abstractions, when catchy melodies came as delirious surprises, the frosting instead of the cake. Still, three or four songs off the new album and most of Slanted and Enchanted (their previous album, on Matador) are worth humming along to. 3Ds open (see Critic's Choice). Thursday, May 5, 7 and 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark. 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gail Butensky.

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