Thursday, April 14, 2011

90's Jams #17: Pavement "Summer Babe (Winter Version)" (1992)

Pitchfork's most recent efforts at canonizing the 90's resulted in some minor controversy after their questionable decision to award the "song of the decade" to Pavement's "Gold Soundz," one of the great singles released from their 2nd album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. As often the case with the internet buzz never being satisfied with anything, issues arose... Is this really "song of the decade" material? Is it even the best song off its album? Some investigation became necessary, as locating previous accolades of this track through internet searching has proven somewhat difficult...

  • John Peel's listeners voted "Gold Soundz" as the #22 best song of 1994 in his annual "Festive 50" countdown, the 2nd highest ranking track from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain after "Range Life" which came in at #14. (Amazing countdown, by the way.)
  • "Cut Your Hair" has proven itself as the critics' favorite from Crooked Rain, appearing in several "best songs of the 90's" lists since the decade's end. As far as we can tell, "Gold Soundz" appears in only Pitchfork's list, at #1.

  • No one from Pitchfork bothered confirming how this ended up happening. In all likelihood, Pavement scored more staff votes than any other band or artist but without 1 song towering over the rest. This makes sense as Pavement's legacy was a hugely impressive string of brilliant LPs and EPs, but without the type of songs that could easily have been huge on any format besides college radio and 120 Minutes. But I could understand Pitchfork's take on this whole thing.. Nirvana gets all the credit they deserve and more. But a "best of the 90's" list without Pavement is pretty much worthless. Albums-wise and career-wise, and considering they started in 1989 and ended in 2000 without sucking even a little, they ARE the band of the decade. And yet, they're usually at #4 or #5, but never #1. And fuck, they deserve it, so why the fuck not?

    While certainly well intentioned, Pavement's #1 placing would have been much more well-received from readers had they chosen a different song. And despite its popularity, "Cut Your Hair" wouldn't have gotten the job done quite as well as what's probably their 2nd most popular favorite among critics lists, the accidental slow-motion explosion called "Summer Babe" which was re-recorded for their first LP Slanted And Enchanted, and is possibly the loudest song to combine all of their best attributes: They probably went to college after leaving their parents in the suburbs, so they understand what debt is like... They're just like us. They played and sang like they were drunk. When they rocked, they kicked so much ass. When they were sad, they were really, really sad. They were confident. The lyrics are so fucking cool, even though sometimes they were way too cryptic and and often probably about nothing.. "Ice baby, I saw your girlfriend, she's eating her fingers like they're just another meal.." Damn that shit's good.. but huh?! And of course, the catchy part where they repeat a bunch of phrases.. "Everytime I sit around I find I'm shot.." And the hi-hat in this rules as well..

    "To be played at maximum volume."

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