Pop: Blimey! It's Pavement

They're the masters of American underground rock. Blur kneel at their lo-fi altar. So why is Pavement's new album a homage to cricket and darts?

Pavement's Stephen Malkmus and Mark Ibold - icons of bloody-minded American underground rock integrity - are dressed as businessmen. With slicked back hair and pancake make-up, they sit opposite each other at a table, pretending to eat plastic toys from a sushi bowl. It's a vision of corporate endeavour only an Italian photographer conceptualising a Dazed & Confused cover shoot could have come up with.

In a roughneck pub around the corner from the studio, their remaining traces of foundation and eyeliner looking endearingly incongruous in more workaday surroundings, the singer/guitarist and bass player discuss the rationale behind their unexpected new image. "The photographer was saying `everything's sloppy now'," Malkmus recounts, laconically. "Damon's not shaving, Brett's talking about heroin - so let's go the other way, let's go back to Dead Ringers."

Justifiably uneasy about seeing himself as one of Jeremy Irons' Cronenbergian identical twin gynaecologists, Mark Ibold prefers to think of the look "more in terms of Gary Numan's The Pleasure Principle... or those post-new romantic bands dressing up like businessmen - not Visage, the BEF".

It is hard to imagine any of Ibold's peers in the American alternative rock establishment speaking fondly of obscure early-Eighties Heaven 17 off-shoot the British Electric Foundation, but then the Anglophile inclinations of any US band opting to call themselves Pavement instead of Sidewalk has long been a source of satisfaction on this side of the Atlantic. Ten years and several appearances at the Reading Festival on, Ibold still admits to his delight at being on the cover of an obscure British fashion magazine.

"They're getting us kind of wrong, though," Malkmus notes indulgently, "because our thing is a little more earthy and hippie right now. Organic's a terrible word - it's not like we want to get hairy and become travellers - but I suppose `urban vacationers' is the kind of sound we are going for."

"We could use the `going to wedding on a farm' analogy," suggests Ibold, initiating a slew of ill-fated attempts to verbalise the mood of Pavement's forthcoming fifth album, Terror Twilight. Among them are "Renting a villa in Tuscany", "Not so much hot summer in the city, as going out in a dilapidated convertible with a picnic", and - perhaps most resonantly - "Kind of like Harold Pinter going to the country and then coming back".

Recorded in London, with Beck/ REM/Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich at the controls, Terror Twilight hitches Malkmus's helter-skelter lyricism to Pavement's most cohesive musical assault since 1994's magnificent Crooked Rain Crooked Rain. The record was nearly called Dart Math, in tribute to top darts-players' astounding ability to work out complex finishes in their heads. In view of Pavement's oft-recognised influence on the new all-American Blur, it would have been a nice touch to repay the compliment with an album of arrows-related cockney music-hall singalongs.

"I think that would have worked," says Malkmus wistfully, "though I asked Damon what it was that he copied from us, because I couldn't hear it, and he played me one song on Blur where he sings in falsetto [Malkmus breaks into an uncanny impression of Albarn imitating him] and said `I've got to admit, I took that from you'... it was a part of one song!"

The deliriously laid-back skitter and hum of Pavement's new single "Carrot Rope" confirms that if Malkmus thinks Damon Albarn has stolen his soul, he's doing a pretty good job of hiding it. There's a line in the song - "The wicketkeeper is down" - which suggests that darts is not the only British sport to have had an impact. "I know it probably has bad class connotations to be into cricket," says Malkmus carefully, "but from my standpoint it's just a very slow, funny game which I watched a lot when we were making the album and I was having terrible bouts of insomnia."

Where the American ideal of Britain is all quaint pastimes and class distinction, our fantasy image of America is of a huge empty place devoid of all that. "I know," says Ibold, appreciatively. "You have this romantic vision of a copy of Dazed & Confused blowing out of the window of a touring band's truck and down a Texas highway, and a cowboy picks it up and says `damn!'. It's not so true now as it was that certain things don't reach certain Americans, but just going to my home in Pennsylvania, even though it's more of a mall than it used to be, it's still as much of a backwater as it was before.

"In fact, because people have access to all this stuff through the big book and record chainstores, it almost makes them seem more backwaterish - like to me it's more disturbing to see a kid walking down the street in my town wearing a shirt with The Spice Girls on, than it would be to see Sham 69 or something from the Sixties, because they feel like they've caught on, but actually they're three years too late."

Why? Because everyone should have instant access to everything they think they might want? "No," says Ibold. "Because in an ideal world cultures would remain intact and develop by themselves... I know MTV are trying to change from territory to territory now, but basically there's this overall American cultural pounding that everyone receives - like they'll set up an MTV in Asia but the people they choose to work there will be the so-called `hip Asians' in touch with London. And then the product starts to mirror the globalisation, so something like The Offspring will be rap and rock and all these blanded out ingredients, whereas someone like Beck will take all these different weird things and try to make something good out of them."

Where do Pavement fit into this picture? As the last standard-bearers of pre-grunge alternative elitism? "We were never grungers," says Malkmus, almost regretfully. "It was always more art for art's sake with us... I guess we're more like the old British dandy - the one that's still wearing the tweed hunting jacket, but you'd rather have him at the party than the other guy because he tells a good story."

`Carrot Rope' (Domino ep) is out now. `Terror Twilight' follows next month

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore