I try not to get too nostalgic for the past. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of a time—back before Google, and their quest to turn our brains into a hunk of Swiss cheese. Was it a better time? I don’t know. There were certainly positives. Oh, I know—thou shalt not speak evil of any technology! And believe it or not, there was life and a social scene before Facebook—arguably a richer one.
A reminder of that time came the other morning, listening to WMBR’s “Boomerang” program, sliding back into some 90s post-punk that I know and love. Erik Morrison is a DJ who once a week (on Tuesday mornings) spends an hour time-traveling back to the days before MP3 players,iTunes, and nearly everyone who is under the age of 25, walking around with earbuds jammed in their ears, oblivious to the world around them. Track lists mattered and artists cared about things like the sequence of 10 or more songs, crafted to fit alongside each other on an album. Granted, we’d transitioned from tapes to CDs, but indie rock still meant independent of corporate control. Obviously, that’s long gone and we’re not in Kansas (or Columbia, Missouri) anymore.
This week, Morrison featured Pavement for the full hour. If you followed “alternative rock” during the early to mid-1990s, most likely you were reading Spin, and you knew about the enigmatic suburban slackers from Stockton, California.
Pavement’s “Slanted and Enchanted” was my soundtrack during the summer of ’92, tooling around in my orange CMP truck, collecting the Green Manilishi, or disconnecting deadbeats from Tom Edison’s juice box. This was pre-Nirvana, before Whitey TM vacuumed up every promising, flannel clad white boy with greasy hair that could play three chords and mumbled his lyrics, flooding the airwaves with Kurt Cobain knock-offs. No interwebs back then,smartphones, or Facebook, either. Just me, a crappy AM/FM radio w/ Kraco speakers wedged behind my seat, and a stack of work orders each day.
While I was still a decade from figuring out that I wanted to make something happen with words, my DIY was still being cultivated that summer and over the subsequent years of that decade. I was also doing a weekly radio show on WBOR, which I’ve written about before.
I’m not sure why hearing Pavement tracks like “Box Elder,” “Stereo,” and “You’re Killing Me” hit me like they did on Tuesday, affecting me for the rest of the week, but something about that particular band (and that period of time) still resonates with me.
Stephen Malkmus has found musical success on his own terms post-Pavement, fronting the Jicks. He is still making relevant music, but the landscape is so much different these days than it was 23 years ago.