Sheet Music

Sheet Music

Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavement

By Rob Jovanovic

Justin, Charles & Co., 216 pp., $19.99 (paper)

"According to the National Word Association of America, 'pavement' is one of the 20 most pleasant sounding words in the English language," cites Rob Jovanovich in this biography of one of the Nineties' most important bands. Fortunately for Jovanovic and the reader, the tumultuous history of Pavement is anything but pleasant. Pleasant is boring. If boring had an archrival, it might just be Gary Young, Pavement's original drummer, first producer, and legendary weirdo. His exploits speak for themselves: making and throwing cinnamon toast from the stage, greeting fans at the door of the club, barbecuing food in his living-room fireplace. Mainlining eccentric energy into the band's amazing early catalog. Not surprisingly, Young is the most compelling character of this spastically decorated bio/collage. Nearly a quarter of the book is photocopied press clippings, tour mementos, lists, and hand-scrawled notes about songs, artfully arranged in manila spot-color. The story of Northern Cal migrants Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg and the rest of the cast is a bit less colorful. The nearly accidental way in which the studio phenomenon turned into a real outfit actually underscores the "slacker band" tag that Jovanovic tries steadfastly to refute. The real tale is the band's constant battle to keep Young in line – going as far as adding Bob Nastanovich as backup percussionist – until he finally quit/was fired before the release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The rest of the story is the Nineties from a different angle: the Lollapalooza debacle, an ongoing feud with Billy Corgan, the alt-buzz of Crooked Rain and commercial stagnation of Wowee Zowee, and Malkmus' passive-aggressive (Malkmusian?) crankiness eventually breaking up the band without anybody ever being told it was over. Perfect Sound Forever picks up the sugary crumbs of this spastic ride, packing them neatly on your bookshelf for posterity.

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