It Has a Nice Ring When You Laugh: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain at 20
There is no real way for me to remember 1994. Sure, I can scour the internet and annoy my parents to get enough information to form an adequate picture of 1994, but defining what 1994 was like is still nearly impossible considering that I was a year away from being a member of this planet. The only way I can define 19941 is through music.
Bee Thousand, Weezer, Parklife, Illmatic, etc. helped make sense of a time that will forever be my elder. Before all those were released, Pavement dropped their second album, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which was the first musical sign of life of 1994.
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain turns 20 this Valentine’s Day. My dad was 22 on that day, but he was too busy having Valentine’s dinner with the woman I would later call mom to even care about a Pavement record dropping.2 He never really got into them. When my dad first introduced me to music, he fed me the bands I would love for the rest of my life.3 Pavement was noticeably absent from his CD collection that counted Yo La Tengo, The Stone Roses, and Guided By Voices among its members.
I grew up in a Pavement-less universe until around ninth grade when I heard “Stop Breathin’” for the first time while I was in the midst of a musical Youtube wormhole. Stephen Malkmus seemed to have the power to sum up my entire existence with a chorus. I was hooked, so on that same day, I listened to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in its entirety until I decided it was time for bed. Every song spoke to me in a new way. It was as if I had found what I had been looking for in an album this entire time. There were no Pavement posters in my home; It was the first time I found a band without my Dad’s guidance. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was the first album I really knew I loved. It was my album.
That summer after ninth grade, Pavement played at the Pitchfork Music Festival. I was lucky enough to see them. (Bridget Illing masterfully detailed what it was like to see a ‘90s band reunite in this article.) It wasn’t very good. Malkmus and the band played as if they were all just woken up from a nap. Despite this, it the best set I saw all of Pitchfork. It was what I expected a Pavement show to be like: disinclined but nevertheless meaningful. When Malkmus rushes his way through “Gold Soundz,” you understand why Pitchfork called it the best song of the 90s. It perfectly captures the deep heart in the apathetic spirit. That’s what the album is in essence. The record defined me as it probably defined some kid at some high school in 1994.
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is not a magnum opus the way Loveless or In the Aeroplane over the Sea is. It’s not even my favorite Pavement record. 4 Despite all this, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain endures in my heart. I don’t care if the album is older than I am, it still holds a great deal of significance to me. And while I will never experience the album the way some did in 1994, it’s not 1994 anymore. It’s 20 years later, and I, along with the myriad of ‘90s babies that discovered Pavement along the way, found meaning in the beauty that came from 1994.