Pavement The Forum, London

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The Independent Culture
Pavement have come a long way from the days of their old alcoholic drummer standing on his head while the rest of the band handed out toast to the audience.

"What's he on about?" or more aptly "What is he on?" is the cry from first-time listeners. All attempts at analysis are thwarted by Malkmus, who takes delight in twisting all theories into knots. They are the kids that can work the video while the adults are still trying to turn it on. A mishmash of Americana and cluttered paranoia, a hundred song words ripped up and sewn back together in the dark.

Pavement have such a laid-back stance that they are virtually horizontal; tonight we're not in the Forum, but slouched in one collective sitting room watching our mates muck about with guitars. "There is no castration fear..." begins the wedding paranoia of "We Dance", the opening song. "The Hex" is a drawn-out pastiche of Hendrix's "Cross-town Traffic".

Pavement are a virtual secret and despite their Blur-fuelled heightened profile, they are likely to stay one of the most closely guarded wonders, held in delight by their dedicated fans. In a world where "indie" no longer signifies alternative but white blokes with guitars who should really get a hair cut, anything as unique as Pavement is widely cherished.

Tonight is packed with the best of Slanted and Enchanted, the poppier Crooked Rain being largely ignored (only "Gold Sounds" and then "Cut Your Hair" in the encore). "Conduit For Sale", "Perfume V" and "Zurich is Stained" are dusted off, having been neglected for past gigs. They seem to have outgrown their garage punk days but look back on them with affection.

The blast of "Stereo" gets even those at the bar shaking their heads, forgetting their carefully cultivated cool stance. "Shady Lane" and the Byrds mickey-take "Date with Ikea" is the night's concession to pop normality, but take a closer look, and although the melody is very radio friendly, the lyrics are again spiked and confusing ("This emery board is giving me a rash, I'm flat out...").

"Infinite Spark" comes complete with an elongated and rather boring guitar solo as the band mooch around the stage rather restlessly. The Velvet Underground classic "What Goes On" was saved until last, along with the ubiquitous "Cut Your Hair".

A Pavement gig was once a rare treat; their steadily rising popularity is making them more frequent visitors to these shores. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt.