Pavement is one of the quintessential ‘90s indie rock bands. During that decade they put out five full-length albums before calling it quits. There is not a single misstep in that quintet of offerings, but not every album is equally good. Here is a ranking of Pavement’s five albums, from the good to the great.
5. Terror Twilight
When you end with your weakest album, it makes it easier for people to accept your band dissolving. Now, Terror Twilight is good. It’s just not nearly as good as the other four albums. It’s a clear step down. The once lo-fi, ragged indie band has a softer, more melodic sound. Some of those songs, like “Spit on a Stranger,” are really good. Other songs are less successful. Sadly, Pavement’s worst song, “Carrot Rope,” ends their final album.
4. Brighten the Corners
Are we just going in reverse chronological order? You’ll have to wait to find out. Brighten the Corners can be forgotten. It’s not the last album. It’s not one of the consensus all-time-great albums. It’s not the experimental album. Instead, it’s just a really good album without a hook to it. Brighten the Corners does include the best of the songs written by Scott Kannberg – aka “Spiral Stairs” – instead of usual frontman Stephen Malkmus. “Date w/ IKEA” is dope, though Malkmus’ “Shady Lane” is the best song on the album.
3. Wowee Zowee
After making two classics, Pavement decided to get weird. Some say they were trying to be combative to all the adoration that had suddenly arrived for them. They were trying to be “anti-commercial.” Pavement doesn’t stick to that narrative. To them, it seemed to mostly be about getting high, eating barbecue, and messing around in the studio. Polarizing at the time, these days Wowee Zowee is pretty much considered another classic from the band. It’s wild and sequenced strangely, but it’s still excellent. Maybe it’s not quite all killer, no filler like the first two albums, but we are big fans of Wowee Zowee.
2. Slanted and Enchanted
See, it’s not just a reverse chronological ordering of Pavement’s albums! Ultimately, any discussion of Pavement’s best album tends to come down to the first two. They have different sounds, and also different personnel. For their first album, Malkmus and Kannberg basically recruited older, erratic drummer Gary Young to fill out the band, and then he proved unreliable enough they added Bob Nastanovich as basically a percussion failsafe and to scream some lyrics. Slanted and Enchanted is super lo-fi. They were basically trying to make a slightly catchier The Fall album, and they succeeded. Every song on this album slays. “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” is one of the best album openers ever. Most bands will never release an album as good as Slanted and Enchanted.
1. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
That being said, Pavement followed up their debut album with an even better one. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain replaces Young with Steve West and adds a bass player in Mark Ibold. The sound is a bit richer, and instead of being a heavily-influenced sound instead Pavement created the sound that would influence basically every indie rock band to follow them in the ‘90s and into the 2000s. You could call it a perfect album and we wouldn’t complain. “Cut Your Hair” and “Gold Soundz” are arguably the quintessential Pavement songs, and they are both on this album. We have no notes. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is at the pinnacle of ‘90s indie rock, and of ‘90s indie rock’s best band.