To a great degree, Pavement broke in 1992 behind the massive critical success of the Stockton, California, band’s debut studio album Slanted and Enchanted, which featured “Cut Your Hair.” Tape trading circles and college radio stations generated significant buzz ahead of the band’s formal arrival on Matador Records, ensnared by frontman Stephen Malkmus’s highly literate yet laconic wordplay layered atop loosely organized chaos of detuned guitars and a flattened rhythm section.
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Slanted and Enchanted and Pavement’s EP Watery, Domestic, which was released later in 1992, earned the band a mention among the likes of early indie/alternative crossovers such as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The band replaced original drummer Gary Young in 1993, settling on a permanent lineup of Malkmus (vocals and guitar), Scott Kannberg (guitar and vocals), Mark Ibold (bass), Steve West (drums) and Bob Nastanovich (percussion and vocals). Pavement’s sophomore full-length, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, was released in 1994 and landed Pavement a brief brush with mainstream success behind the single “Cut Your Hair,” a song Malkmus described as a “metaphor” for the music industry’s obsession with image.
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“Cut Your Hair” received significant play on MTV, where the band would eventually draw the ironic ire of Beavis and Butt-Head. It stands as Pavement’s biggest “hit,” spending three months on the Billboard Alternative charts in 1994.
From Malkmus’s track-by-track guide to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (via Rob Jovanovic’s Perfect Sound Forever)
While a brief brush with mainstream success brought in new fans, it also invited a new set of pressures. Pavement would get spurn the desire to conform to the rock radio and MTV stylings of the era on their third studio release Wowee Zowee, fusing lo-fi indie flavourings with classic rock, country, and noise rock.
“Cut Your Hair” remains a staple on lists of the best 90s alternative and indie songs.