Monday, October 6, 2008

Curt Your Hair

If Pavement ever had a "hit," this was it. "Cut Your Hair" was Buzzworthy on MTV and even received decent radio play from commercial stations. If there was a quintessential Pavement song, I'd also argue that "Cut Your Hair" earns that title as well. Honestly, this was the song that introduced me to the band.

Lyrically, the song is on the silly side, but there is an underlying punk ethos there that drives the sentiment home. Pavement was coming along at a time when underground bands were being scooped up and marketed to the masses. Lost was any of the energy or originality that made these bands so sought after by the majors in the first place. Pavement saw this going on around them and responded in song.

Each of the three verses address a movement away from music toward image. The first verse comes across as harmless, but it addresses image over content in the form of a haircut, the song's main theme. The haircut won't suddenly make a mediocre band great or a crummy album go platinum. However, tell that to all the bands posing as "emo" nowadays. Emo bands used to look like the guys in Pavement, not dudes with black eye make-up and silly haircuts.

The second verse becomes clearer as it addresses the over-saturation of bands to the market. Of course, the dilution of good music through the overabundance of bands has only worsened over the years, but the early nineties was the beginning. Another great song from the era that addresses this issue is Archers of Loaf's "Greatest of All-Time."

The third verse comes with a full-on attack on sell-outs. Buying songs and legitimacy is bashed. Image is pummeled by superior songwriting while the song unravels into rants of careerism. ("Career, career, Korea...")
Besides being one of Pavement's catchiest tunes, it is higlighted by several aesthetics that make it so memorable. First of all, the whoo-ooh-ooh's that fill the space between the verses are as memorable, if not more, than the lyrics or music or band itself. Also earmarking the song as a significant part of the ouvre, the guitar solo winds and whirls out of control, clearly setting Pavement apart from the hair-metal wannabe's of the grunge era. Finally, the song had a string of lines about drummers that either referenced those who hit the skins for Spinal Tap or former drummer, Gary Young.

The song has had an extra emotional tie for me as of late. My daughter, Lucia, was born three weeks ago, and this seems to be her favorite far. Or at least my slower, twangier version sooths her like no other mid-nineties song I sing to her.