Pavement Brighten the Corners

Harness Your Hopes by Pavement: Great B-Sides

The streaming era has scattered previously held views on the hierarchy of popular music. Despite a critical pasting, Queen have emerged as the dominant classic rock band. The number one spot on the Billboard 100 in early 2022 has largely been shared by Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ and the Disney song ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’. And an obscure b-side has somehow become Pavement’s most-streamed song on Spotify.

Pavement are a beloved 1990s alt-rock band from Stockton, California. They flirted with success on the 1994 single ‘Cut Your Hair’, reaching the top ten in the US Alternative Airplay chart. But generally they were too arty and too abrasive for the mainstream, instead enjoying critical acclaim for albums like Slanted and Enchanted, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and Wowee Zowee.

‘Harness Your Hopes’ was originally recorded during the sessions for Brighten the Corners in 1997, but was left off the album. It eventually surfaced on the 1999 EP Spit on a Stranger, remaining only known by hardcore fans. Due to the mysterious wonders of the Spotify algorithm – there’s a fascinating Stereogum article that speculates that some songs have become popular through Spotify’s autoplay feature because they’re relatively “normal” – it’s now eclipsed ‘Cut Your Hair’ as Pavement’s best-known song. In the past week, Pavement have released a video for ‘Harness Your Hopes’ promoting their 2022 tour and the re-release of Spit on a Stranger.

As well as it’s normality, the pseudo-inspirational title might also be a factor in its success. The song is full of Stephen Malkmus’ playful imagery; as a New Zealander, the line “Kiwis they are home baking” certainly brings back memories of the initial Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020. Pavement have made more iconic songs to my mind, but ‘Harness Your Hopes’ does an efficient job of showcasing Pavement’s strengths and it would have been a standout on Brighten the Corners.

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Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.


  1. Rick Beato who does all the ‘What Makes this Song Great?’ videos did a whole piece on how far down the popularity list some classic rock bands have fallen. The Beatles are well below Queen and Beato says his young kids can sing all the Queen songs. I think that may be in part due to smart marketing by the band and also the anthemic nature of their songs and how much they are used in sporting events. Not that I don’t love Queen myself, mind you.

    Funny you should mention the ‘Bruno’ song. I literally never heard of it till today. I pay zero attention to popular music. Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘Hamilton’ fame has a show coming to Boston that’s called ‘Freestyle Love Supreme.’ He and some friends apparently get up on stage and improvise raps (or whatever) based on whatever the audience calls out. He will not be making the Boston run because that ‘Bruno’ tune is written by him as is the entire Disney soundtrack and apparently it’s burning up the charts. So he has to go do publicity or something.

    As to the Pavement tune, not bad. But if that’s representative of their sound, I’ll pass.

    • Unlike The Beatles, I think Queen benefited from bigger-sounding production of the 1970s. A lot of The Beatles stuff sounds a little wimpy in comparison, especially to younger generations.

      I live with three enthusiastic Lin-Manuel Miranda fans. I actually made a post of my family’s top ten Lin-Manuel Miranda songs a couple of months back.

  2. I was living in Sacramento, California’s capital city 50 miles north of Stockton, in 1994, but can’t remember hearing any of Pavement’s music. But then, I wasn’t listening to any alternative music back in those days.

  3. I think Queen moved up because of that movie. That is when I started to hear more of them.

    I like this better than Cut Your Hair. I had them ready for a Monday post (Cut Your Hair) last year…still in my drafts…this one is better to me.

    • They’ve always seemed pretty present to me – I think the change from buying albums to streaming helped them as other bands have strong album catalogues, but they have a pretty impressive catalogue of hits.

  4. I’ve always wanted to get into Pavement, I’ve haven’t yet but I like what I’ve heard with ‘Cut Your Hair’ and ‘Harness Your Hopes’.

    Queen really have become the classic rock band, not the Beatles, not Led Zeppelin but Queen and I’m fine with that. It helps with the fact that original Beatles recordings aren’t heard in movies and advertisements, unlike Queen so the in-your-face approach is effective.

    • I generally like early Pavement albums better – they’d lost a bit too much edge by the time of Brighten the Corners for my liking.

      Queen aren’t quite at strong at albums as some of their competitors IMO, but that hardly matters at this point. Great singer and a diverse range of hits.

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Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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