Stephen Malkmus: My Life in 15 Songs

The former Pavement frontman and current leader of the Jicks looks back on a quarter-century of indie-rock genius

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"Spit on a Stranger"

Terror Twilight, 1999

This song has a Beatles feel to me. It’s a pretty song in the standard tuning, which, as Rolling Stone readers know, means tuning your guitar to EADGBE, in the way that the Lord told us to do it. And it has that Nigel Godrich production — he can make the average guitar sound so good. But in Pavement fashion, the singer has to say, “I could spit on a stranger,” which is a slightly bizarre hook. Kind of dark and fucked-up. It’s a sweet love song except for that. Maybe I was feeling the love for somebody. I can't remember.

After Terror Twilight, it was nearing 10 years of the band, and I felt like it was going to be a struggle instead of a joy. I'm sure U2 has struggled through many albums and they’ve stayed together. But if it’s not fun, that's going to come across in the recording. Maybe it's good to stop when everyone's got the love and the self-respect. In the end, it was more or less my decision [to end Pavement]. I tried to spin it as a positive: “It kicked ass. Let's leave it as a relatively special thing in our minds.”

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