Tuneful without being soft, confident without being pompous, hip without being inaccesible, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was a huge leap for Pavement up the rock & roll evolution cycle. They may have gained some pop smarts, but a casual listen to the dissonant guitar solo of "Cut Your Hair" proves that the seeds planted with 1989's first Slay Tracks EP have come to their logical fruition. Stephen Malkmus and co. created an album that neither short-changed their status as prominent indie noise-makers, nor stunted their growth as a musical ensemble. Thus, though the inspired eccentricity is toned down--an instrumental tribute to fellow Stockton-ite Dave Brubeck being the closest thing to their early quirkiness--this is the most consistent set of stubbornly catchy songs ever. From the odd tunings and drunken AC/DC riffing of "Silence Kit"--with its somber lyric of leaving the urban life behind--to the epic closing of "Fillmore Jive"--which begs us to say "good night to the rock & roll era"--Crooked Rain is an album of short stories, full of irony, wit, and hooks.