Review #434: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement

Karla Clifton
3 min readSep 16, 2023

#434: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement

I reviewed Pavement’s debut album Slanted and Enchanted over 200 entries ago, and I didn’t get it. I said so multiple times. And now that I’ve heard their sophomore effort, which sold significantly better, I don’t know where RS gets off ranking their debut first. This album hit me like a truck.

RS claims this is a “concept album about turning 28,” which I saw in several other articles. You know who never said that? Stephen Malkmus, frontman of Pavement. Nope, the furthest back I could trace it is to Rob Sheffield in the Village Voice. Who is one of the people who wrote the RS 500 list. “Yeah, this is a concept album. Source: Myself.”

But even if that’s a nonsensical claim, I know what Sheffield is getting at. Because I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m about to turn 29, and I definitely have some thoughts and feelings about my twenties being practically over, and those feelings sound a little bit like this album. I might not have “gotten” Slanted, but I “get” Crooked Rain.

Malkmus’ voice and lyrics make it sound like he’s being strangled, in a good way. He warbles about being misunderstood by his family on “Silence Kid,” then thinks that maybe, just maybe, he wants to settle down on “Range Life.” (Which — forgive my tangent — launched one of the funniest feuds in rock history, after calling the Smashing Pumpkins nature kids who don’t have no function. Billy Corgan went WILD, booting them from Lollapalooza and saying, “People don’t fall in love to Pavement … [T]hey put on Smashing Pumpkins or Hole or Nirvana, because those bands actually mean something to them.” I just love that little Stephen Malkmus made the bald Pumpkin so mad.)

Another strong late-twenties theme that’s tackled is career disillusionment. Malkmus’ beef is obviously with the music industry — as he says in “Cut Your Hair,” Attention and fame is a career. See also “Fillmore Jive.” Guitarist Scott Kannberg throws his hat in the ring too, writing and singing a critique of rock star excess “Hit the Plane Down.”

And yet, I’m kind of convinced that this isn’t a concept album at all. It’s just not cohesive enough. For instance, there are three separate songs about specific locations: “Newark Wilder” is about New Jersey gutter punks, “Unfair” is about how NorCal > SoCal, and “Heaven Is a Truck” is about heaven being a truck. Then there’s the very Gen X social critique “Elevate Me Later” and the random jazz interlude “5 - 4 = Unity.” Maybe I’m missing something.

I’m making fun of them, but like I said, this record really resonated with me. In the words of original Pavement drummer Gary Young, “this Malkmus idiot is a complete songwriting genius.” If anyone knows Stephen Malkmus personally, ask him how “conceptual” this record really is. Also, ask him if life gets any less weird after 28.

Song That Affected Me the Most: “Stop Breathin.’” I don’t know if it’s the gorgeous guitar or the tennis references, but this one made me cry.

Song That Underwhelmed Me: “Gold Soundz.” Pretty! Relatable! But Pitchfork ranked it THE best song of the Nineties? Pitchfork is run by aliens.

Review #433: Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem

Review #435: Actually, Pet Shop Boys

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