When attitude was still required

Stephen Malkmus, the Generation X poster boy, may not look like a college student anymore and more like the easy-going geography teacher everyone would have liked to have had, but his physical appearance hasn’t really changed much. 30 years after the release of his band Pavement’s debut album, he still has outrageously full hair, his shirt fits perfectly with the sleeves rolled up, and when he lunges on stage it doesn’t seem like his bones are groaning. The slacker lifestyle, which he embodied like no other in the nineties and which stands for the opposite of hard work and ambition, seems to be a kind of fountain of youth for him.

So now Pavement are reunited for the second time after a brief comeback earlier in the last decade. It’s unclear what’s to come, but at least the band has a few new songs with them for their performance at Berlin’s Tempodrom. When they broke up more than twenty years ago after only five records, there was talk of tension in the band structure. Let’s see if it stays with the good vibe she exudes during the concert.

Back in the ’90s, Pavement was the coolest indie rock band on the planet. When Nirvana’s breakthrough success saw all the other promising alternative rock bands switch to big record labels to make it big, the band, which formed in California and later resided in New York, cultivated an anti-attitude. Ironically, she succeeded with that, too.

The Stone Temple Pilots of this world, who only look towards MTV

While their songs were always a little too battered to be played anywhere other than college radio stations, they played all the more extensively there. In their mini-hit “Range Life”, which they are now also performing in Berlin, the others are dissed, the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots of this world, who only squint in the direction of MTV.

Yes, it was still like that in the nineties: real indie against fake indie, attitude still had a meaning for music lovers. The US author Chuck Klosterman describes this in his current book about this decade and states that today hardly any young person would understand the seriousness with which the only true indie ethos was fought back then.

Pavement themselves probably don’t see it that closely anymore. After all, a concert arena like the Tempodrom, which is fully seated, has a rather minimal underground aura. The band also doesn’t tear apart and deconstruct their songs quite as relentlessly anymore. Even if their second drummer, Bob Nastanovich, still clowns during the breaks, jumping around on stage and performing screeching attacks.

It’s clearer now that the band isn’t just influenced by noise rock Sonic Youths, but also has a big heart for classic Americana, even Creedance Clearwater Revival. For music that mainly plays on mainstream radio. You may not like Stephen Malkmus to look at it, but he’s gotten older too.

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