Looking back, Pavement's Wowee Zowee was not immediately praised as a crucial album in the band catalog when it was released 25 years ago. In fact, it was seen as the opposite. "This Pavement album finds the group reclaiming some of the radio waves and static ceded to such groups as Guided By Voices, Strapping Fieldhands and The Grifters," Eric Weisbard wrote in his review of Wowee in the May 1995 issue of SPIN. "At 18 songs and nearly an hour-long, this is by far the longest and least immediately appealing Pavement album, without a single tune or 'ba-ba-ba-da-ba' as catchy as 'Range Life,' 'In The Mouth A Desert,' or 'Debris Slide.'" “At the time, people were a little confused by the record,” Scott Kannberg admits, the guitarist known as Spiral Stairs and founding Pavement member, about the band's third LP. "But as time has gone on, people have really come to consider Wowee Zowee to be one of their favorites." Last week, Matador commemorated Wowee with a three-song shaped disc as a bundle with the original record as part of the label’s “Revisionist History” series. However, the special treat is the release of “Sensitive Euro Man”- a song originally featured on the excellent soundtrack to the 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol - as a picture disc single pressed as “Pavement?” thought bubble with “Brink of the Clouds/Candylad” on the flip with a run of 3,000 copies. Listening to Kannberg recall how the album was put together really offers a keen insight into the DNA of its construct. “I’ve always thought of Wowee Zowee as two records,” he tells SPIN. “It’s like a perfect album and its b-sides all jumbled up and put together (laughs). But that was because we had two separate recording sessions for it. We had been recording these loose jams on our own in New York City prior to getting together in Memphis. Doug Easley had a studio down there and the Silver Jews were supposed to start recording something there. But then David Berman flipped out or something so they didn’t do it, and we ended up using that time to work on Wowee. Steve called me up at the time and said he had this free studio time, so let’s get the band together.” Additionally, Pavement are tentatively scheduled to play this year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona and Porto, both of which have been postponed to late summer, though the reality of it happening this year remains unclear though all signs point to cancellation. "One of the ideas for Primavera was maybe do a Wowee Zowee show,” Kannberg reveals. “It’s such a good record to play live. And we played those songs a lot over the years. And you can tell some of them have become real crowd-pleasers through the years, like ‘Grounded’ and ‘Fight This Generation’ especially.” When it comes to citing which Pavement album is the best, every fan will share a wildly differing opinion than their neighbor, who might say Brighten The Corners where you might argue the case for Slanted and Enchanted being the one. There are even a few Terror Twilight defenders out there. Yet it's unquestionable the most beloved Pavement LP turns out to be Wowee Zowee, a notion that's proven to be true when SPIN asked several modern acts to share the importance of this strange and beautiful indie rock essential. Scott Lucas Guitar and vocals, Local H Julia Simone Paul If I’m cornered, this is my favorite Pavement record. I’ll get obsessed with Slanted or Watery, Domestic for a summer, but I always come back to Wowee Zowee. I’m the same way with R.E.M. and Fables of the Reconstruction. I loved it right away, but I was all too aware that I was in the minority on that. At least in OUR van. I got an advance copy while we were on tour and so we popped it in the CD player. I was super excited about what I was hearing — but somewhere around the end of “AT&T,” somebody ejected it and threatened to throw it out the window. After that, I had to fight to listen to it. So I ended up listening to it on headphones a lot. I was really disappointed with the general reaction to that record. I thought it SOUNDED fucking great — and Malkmus had turned into a goddamn guitar hero. I also thought it was a lot of fun. They seemed willing and able to try anything. They’d go from a loopy throw-away like “Brinx Job” straight into “Grounded” — which is one of their most beautiful songs. And from there, it goes to the fucked-up faux-hardcore of “Serpentine Pad.” And the whole record is like that. It was like the White Album. Fearless. But they never made another record like that again. It was almost like they got their noses batted back and they said: “Well, we’ll never do THAT again”. Their next two records had great songs, but that sense of “anything goes” was gone. Like they’d been grounded. Or like they were trying to please the people who hated Wowee Zowee. And that pissed me off because FUCK those people! Like all great “overly-ambitious” records, I feel like this record has definitely gotten the last laugh. It’s aged very well —as they say. I’m constantly struck by what an impression it made on me. I’ll pick out these little bits that wormed their way into our songs and it’s like “Oh, yeah! That’s where I got that from.” I’m pretty sure “Rattled By The Rush” was lurking around in my head when I wrote, “Bound For The Floor.” Hopefully, it’s not too obvious. Every time I hear that shitty music cue on “Friends” —the one that blatantly ripped off “Rattled’— I think, “Did I do that?” Ella O'Connor Williams Vocals, arrangement and production, Squirrel Flower Maria Gelsomini The whole album is perfectly chopped and mixed up punk poetics. "Grounded" is total cathartic tension and release. That fuzzed-out riff inspired me to get my first-ever distortion pedal. The guitar playing on this album influences my guitar playing more than any other band or record. I remember driving with friends through the winding woods roads by my high school and blasting this album so loud. Thanks, Pavement. Jeff Rosenstock Hiro Tanaka It’s interesting to think of Pavement as being from the same era that gave us grunge and ska-punk. This was a band from fuckin’ outer space--they didn’t sound like anybody. And the thing, for me, was that it came out so fast after Crooked Rain, which had their one big radio hit with “Cut Your Hair.” But they were like, “Whatever! Let’s open up the album by singing in a British accent!” I remember hearing “We Dance” for the first time and going, ‘WTF is going on here?’ But that’s the magic of Pavement. It’s the spirit that you want from them. Ellen Kempner Guitars and vocals, Palehound Bao Ngo Wowee Zowee blew my mind in high school. I couldn’t believe one album could fly so dramatically between different genres and moods. This album is also really funny to me, there are tons of bizarre lyrics. My favorite song is “AT&T” which I feel like is a good example because it tugs at my heartstrings for reasons I don’t understand and has lyrics like “Spritzer on ice in New York City.” John Andrew Fredrick Singer and guitarist, the black watch Steve Keros "It's an album that points up the essential melancholia of the deceptively clownish ones who mask their positive sorrow with abject impishness. I think the LP also reveals a deeper sort of cynicism than we'd seen from these kids who somehow can't pretend that it's a put-on anymore. When it came out, it made me wonder if they (in their infinite self-consciousness) were wondering if the jig was up--with all the accolades piling up and all. They must have had questions a la what The Beatles were asked all the time, i.e. 'What will you do when the bubble bursts?' Still, the curious psych-y touches in Wowee suggest that, as a band at least, they felt they still had a few realms to colonize--that pop-Imperialists Pavement. For me, however, the newly-introduced sound of pedal steel sounds the death knell of any old band! How I cringe at the use of that clichéd instrument!" Andrew Leahey Singer, Andrew Leahey & the Homestead Chad Cochran I studied English at the University of Virginia, Malkmus' alma mater. This was a decade or so after Wowee Zowee, and to many of my classmates, Charlottesville had become synonymous with the Dave Matthews Band, whose members all lived nearby. Even so, that didn't stop many of the indie kids -- the student bus drivers, the drama students, the tattooed and pierced outliers -- from proudly claiming Malkmus as one of their social descendants. On a campus whose beauty was both manicured and historic, he was like the Gen X Godfather of haphazard cool. Luke Rathborne James Strosahl I always loved how “We Dance” uses a bong rip as auxiliary percussion. I love how the bong is continuous too like somebody took a two-minute hit. An older friend introduced me to this record and as commonplace as it might be to say Stephen Malkmus seemed to me in the same mold as Bob Dylan in the way he cuts through the speakers. I also love the huge variety on Wowee. The sprawl and different styles of music felt like a kind of modern White Album. Ben Harrison Singer, Stutter Steps Noah Purdy I was a junior in college when Wowee Zowee came out and for me at the time, it was inextricably linked to Guided By Voices' Alien Lanes, (also released in '95), and therefore, as I recall, it didn't get as much playing time on the dorm turntable. Formative years, indeed. I think my favorite track from Wowee Zowee is "Grave Architecture," both because of the quirky intro line "Come on in" and the super hooky and bass-heavy two-chord change in the beginning of the song, that reminds of the chord change during the verse in "I'm Waiting for the Man." Just one of many classic Pavement moments that made me think of, and appreciate their significant Velvet Underground influence. I can certainly relate... Sean Cahill Vocals and guitar, The Next Great American Novelist Shervin Lainez Wowee Zowee always felt like one of the least coherent Pavement records. But for a sprawling indie rock band, the chaos works in its favor. I didn’t start listening to Pavement until I heard Chris Thile (Nickel Creek) do a cover of “Spit on a Stranger,” from Terror Twilight. The pop-bluegrass band captured the humor of the song in 2002 and upon listening to it, I knew I had some backtracking to do. Who was this band I missed? I first went to Slanted and Enchanted and from there I found a treasure trove of satisfying noise that Pavement had honed over the ’90s. It was a blend of poetry and self-indulgence. To me, it captured the feeling of growing pains. Somehow their take on the genre rang more authentic to me than Weezer did. The opening track on Wowee Zowee, “We Dance” starts with the familiar pulse of strumming open chords and makes you feel like anyone can play guitar. It’s like the song is inviting you to start a band and that you should do it right now. More slacker-jangle vibes come in an out throughout the record as they sandwich moments of fully crystalized laser-beams that come through overdriven tube amps. There is a sense of humor in its rambling weirdness. You can hear it on “AT&T,” which opens with, “Maybe, somebody’s gonna save me, my heart is filled with gravy.” Which sounds an awful lot like "Wonderwall" by Oasis (which came out the same year). But Pavement’s take on this S.O.S. kind of message is delivered much more like an inside joke. A joke you’re invited in on. Now, when I listen back it inspires me to write songs more impulsively because there seems to be freedom and room to grow in that kind of looseness. The catharsis of melodies that are more spoken and less sung. Michael Tapper Drummer, Practice (formerly in We Are Scientists, Bishop Allen, Fool's Gold, Yellow Ostrich) Guy Eppel Pavement was like indie rock college for me. They basically became the paradigm through which I saw music. So Wowee Zowee was kind of like my junior year: once the fundamentals were sound, it was time to start branching into some electives and more advanced theories. But the lesson was, like, “whatever.” Except it was the coolest, smartest, most musically interesting “whatever” I had ever heard. It was like the “whatever” heard round the world. Nina Ljeti Singer/composer, Kills Birds Michelle Laine Pavement is one of my favorite bands of all time. Not only is it a band that I revisit frequently in an attempt to steal their ideas, melodies, lyrics, and general aesthetic, but it is a band that I turn to for every break-up, night out, road trip, etc. Why? Because they're so diverse and endlessly exciting. And there's so much to learn from them that I feel no matter how many times I listen to their records, I'm still trying to figure out what they're all about. Wowee Zowee, in particular, is Pavement at its best. I was listening to it again recently on one of my solo, middle-of-the-night COVID-19 quarantine walks, and it was the perfect accompaniment. In these trying times, we're likely to feel all the feels-- sadness, loneliness, annoyance, anger, excitement, horniness, etc.-- and the beautiful chaos of Wowee Zowee ticks all those boxes. In particular, listening to it on my solo walk that night made me feel a little less alone in the world. I think that's because this album has a little bit of everything, so you can always find something that speaks to you. Re-visiting Wowee Zowee that night also made me realize that Pavement is, without a doubt, one of the most punk rock bands of all time. So daring in whatever they create, that even after hundreds of listens, Wowee Zowee continues to be one of the most unusual and exciting records that I have ever heard. Which means that no matter how hard I try to steal from Pavement, I don't think I can ever do it. Their skillful chaos is a unique trait that belongs only to them. Anyone else who tries might come out a poser. But that's okay. At least I know, while I'm holed up in solo quarantine, I can rely on Pavement (and Stephen Malkmus' soothing voice) to get me through whatever I'm feeling. Rick Spitalsky Singer-songwriter, Extra Medium Pony Extra Medium Pony In hindsight, this album sounds like your friends' band, if you had a dream where your friends were ultra-talented. Age 16, I first heard this album while ripping bong hits of kind bud in my manic/bipolar 35-year-old friend's room at his parents' house, which was filled with garbage and smelled like a dumpster. There was sharpie writing and holes punched in the walls from passer throughs. I sat on a couch that had no legs, spaced out of my mind and Pavement playing in the background. We've all been there, right? This album is the soundtrack to that room, wherever it exists now. I don't know if people can make music like this anymore. Once it's been created in a moment, it only lives there. Johnny Iguana Piano, The Claudettes Timothy Hiatt I was living in NYC (having moved their from Philadelphia after college) when Pavement first made waves with Slanted and Enchanted and then Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. By the time Wowee Zowee arrived in '95, I was living in Chicago and on the road full time with blues harmonica legend Junior Wells. But I'd been in punk bands as well as blues bands in Philly since I was 16, and I was as obsessed with Pavement in '95 as I was with going back in time and studying Big Maceo, Blind John Davis, Eddie Boyd and the other Chicago blues-piano giants. I saw Pavement concerts that varied wildly in their impact on me. When I saw them outside at Dillo Day in Evanston, Illinois at Northwestern University, Malkmus just seemed put off by the frat crowd and expressed his boredom with every fiber of his being and with his words, too. That show was a drag, but I saw them at the Metro, too, not long after, and there was just this ineffable beauty to the music and the whole experience that (and I still don't understand why) left me literally crying on a curb down the street from the venue after the show. As for Wowee Zowee, I remember hearing that the band were forced to pick a single, and so they picked 'Rattled by the Rush,' but they might as well have thrown a dart at a dartboard. This was not a singles album...it sort of stumbled, high and laughing, across a field of alt-rock, spacey country, psychedelia and metal-heavy rock, with vocals and lyrics shifting from sweet and lovely to speaker-busting screams. This album, too, has this ability to make me cry and I don't know why. And "lo-fi?" I always thought, "Gimme a break." These tracks are positively lush where they want to be, and craggy where they have to be. Pavement were in total command. beabadoobee Jay Seba Wowee Zowee was one of the first pavement albums I ever listened to. It stood out because the lazy feeling the vocals matched so well with the melodies that the guitars carried. It’s crazy because it’s rare an artist can make me feel something so much with something as simple as guitar chords. Everything just falls so satisfyingly and it’s the best album to gently bop your head to when you're stoned. Pavement inspired me with the way I song write, especially with my EP Space Cadet. A melody that sticks in someone’s head that almost matches perfectly with the feeling they have at the time. I was supposed to get a Wowee zowee tattoo at one point, I loved it that much.