Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

Give It a Day

Formed on a lark by the childhood friends Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg, Pavement helped shape the independent rock scene more than any other band in the 90’s. Heavily distorted but remarkably catchy tunes, formed the bands trademark repertoire of hummable but cryptic rock songs. Like many bands in the 90’s indie rock scene, Pavement wrote songs that were witty, beguiling, and never ready to show the band’s true intentions or beliefs. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Pavement’s famous b-side Give It a Day from their Pacific Trim EP. The song delves into a topic rarely if ever addressed in the typically ironic indie rock scene, Cotton Mather and Puritanism.

The song deals with the early spread of Puritanism during the 17th century in North America. Although on first listen, the song appears to be a simple retelling of the popularization of Puritanism, the lyrics cast the Mather family as characters crucial in the horrors committed at the Salem Witch Trials. This could simply be viewed as misinformation on the part of Stephen Malkmus, the principal songwriter, but Malkmus is a history major and these changes are almost certainly deliberate. Moving into the second section of the song, Malkmus comments that Puritan traits have seeped into the world we live in today. He believes that although pop culture has clearly moved beyond the older beliefs found in Puritanism, ultimately the hysteria surrounding Puritanism has faded. Surely it seems that Pavement has something to say with a song with a topic as unique as Puritanism but ultimately it must be worth noting that Pavement wrote this song simply out of necessity. The song was recorded during a recording session where the rest of the backing band dropped out, Pavement simply didn’t want to lose their downpayment. Give It a Day provides a fascinating insight into the band’s off the cuff opinions about history but in the end the listener is left wondering if the band was even being serious.

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