Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Hexx

A hex (with one x) can stand for a couple of things. The first is the idea of a curse or spell that is placed on an individual or family by a witch. This can explain the lyrics of Pavement's "The Hexx".

The song carries on the theme of Terror Twilight of an impending doom. As stated many times in this here blog, the last Pavement record served notice that the band's run had come to an end, but that's getting redundant.

Malkmus describes various situations in which his subjects suffer from hexes of their own. Capistrano swallows that are supposed to return to their San Juan home, suddenly can't. Epileptic surgeons and fooled football players prepare as their failures are close at hand. One of the greatest Malk-metaphors demonstrates this point further.

Architecture students are like virgins with an itch they cannot scratch,
Never build a building till you're 50; what kind of life is that?
The 70's atmospherics support the gloom and doom of a hexed life. Bluesy guitar solos and wailing in the background set the mood of the track. One can picture a movie scene in which the protagonist is stumbling through a crowded hallway, intoxicated on some mind-altering substance, and dazed by his own failures as this music plays, drowning out the chaos around.

The other meaning to hex comes from a hexadecimal or a base-16 numbering system. Coincidentally, the song arguably has sixteen lines: five verses of two-lines each and a six-line chorus. Again, it's probably just a coincidence.

You're Killing Me

Fuzz and spit is how the opening and background of "You're Killing Me" might be described, the first track on the first release of the Pavement discography, Slay Tracks (1933-1969). The highly experimental and lo-fi (read "cheap") production value helped catapult Pavement to indie darlings, and they never looked back.

The song's noisy hiss, lack of percussion, and simple, repetitive lyrics made the song a tribute to the band's punk ethos. While so much of Pavement's later work appealed to the listener's intellect, this song had a guttural feel lacking once the band signed with Matador. However, the same sentiment can be found in songs like "Conduit for Sale" or "Fight this Generation".

Interestingly, some of the lyrics were the moniker for one of the earliest Pavement fan-sites, The Sign on the Door.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Unseen Power of the Picket Fence

"There's some bands I'd like to name-check/And one of them is REM."
And so begins Pavement's contribution to the alterna-compilation benefiting AIDS research and education, No Alternative. This homage to REM, the Athens-based band that made college rock mainstream, pays tribute to the band's influence on Pavement. Like any dedicated fan, SM describes both what made REM important (left standing after Sherman rapes the South) and disappointing ("Time After Time" was my least favorite song...). SM offers a song-by-song audit of REM's best (and earliest) work while relating the band's cultural significance to a fallen and broken South.

Some reporters asked REM front man Michael Stipe what he thought of the Pavement track. He was insulted they didn't like "Time After Time" but he was honored to be name-checked by such up-and-coming indie band. According to indie rock lore, Stipe suggested that the band could play the song as if serenading him on an MTV special featuring the songs, bands and issues of the compilation. Pavement declined.