Stephen Malkmus was in a hamburger restaurant at the end of last year when Parquet Courts came on the restaurant stereo. “I thought it was Pavement,” he told Rolling Stone, confusing the New York upstarts’ slacker-rock scrawl for his own. For the record, it wasn’t meant as a dig at Andrew Savage’s band – “those guys are cool,” the 48-year-old insisted elsewhere in the interview. But it does go to show how influential Pavement remain, some 20 years after the release of their (in my opinion) greatest work. When ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ dropped in February 1994, its slurred vocals and smirking abandon filled a void for waves of MTV Generationers whose disillusionment was too much for the raw angst of Nirvana, whose numbness at the world meant they couldn’t muster the rage demanded by bands like Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots. Building on the clever, slouching rock of their 1992 debut, Pavement marked themselves out with ‘Crooked Rain…’ as a band for a different type of outsider. Pretty much any of those outsiders to pick up a guitar since have called it an inspiration.
Among Britain’s current wave of Malkmus worshippers are many of the artists on South Coast DIY imprint Art Is Hard Records’ roster, home to Paws, Flamingods, The Black Tambourines and Poledo, all of whom have contributed to a 20th anniversary celebration of that record. Recreated track by track from start to finish, it’s a starker, grainier imagining of that record, but with every bit as much heart and humour as the original. Bristol-based no-fi soloist Trust Fund strips ballad ‘Range Life’ to its bare, brittle bones. Brilliant New Zealander Shunkan’s rendition of ‘Elevate Me Later’ replicates the tender, shoegazey thrills of her recent ‘Honey, Milk and Blood’ EP, which if you haven’t heard you should seriously search out. Former Tubelord frontman Joey Fourr, meanwhile, takes ‘Newark Wilder’ into trippy territory that’ll have your head spinning. Give it a go below ahead of its Cassette Day release this weekend (September 27) and let us know what you reckon.