Pavement never lacked in their decade-long time together, releasing hit after hit before disbanding in 1999. Regarded as one of the most, if not the most, essential indie bands of all time, Pavement defined the term "indie rock". To learn why exactly this is, one must go back to the early 1990s, when Pavement first began.
In 1992 when their first album "Slanted and Enchanted" was released, it was incredibly fresh. Playful and humorous, Pavement combined lo-fi noise with bizarre lyrics. Furthermore, their playing is rather sloppy and raw, with questionable production. At times, the atonal and off time music makes it seem like Pavement isn't trying at all, or are completely new to their instruments.
This, as well as the lyrics, are actually all on purpose to counterpoint standard rock cliches during those times. The early 90's was a time when both grunge music's serious lyricism and 80's arena-rock style excessive production were huge. Pavement purposely differentiated themselves from both these in their aesthetics and music on "Slanted and Enchanted".
Moving forward, their 1994 sophomore release, "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain", was a huge stylistic change for Pavement. Ditching the lo-fi sound in favor of more clean production but still keeping some of the raw noise, "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" still showed to be a much more varied album overall.
The prototype slacker album, "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" is gleaming and distorted. At many times sounding like the entire album is going to fall apart, Pavement leaves the listener never quite knowing just how serious or satirical they're being throughout.
Still, at the height of the grunge movement, "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" reinforces Pavement's notion that they were the antithesis of this now an entirely commercial explosion. That they just didn't care; were entirely fed up. And they pulled it off perfectly, with beautiful melodies and sarcastic lyrics.
Pavement went on to drop multiple more solid EP's and LP's after "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain". These all continued the trend of ditching Slanted and Enchanted"'s lo-fi sound in favor of "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain"'s more polished and radio-friendly pop sound.
At this point, however, Pavement had already established themselves as the new sound, just as Sonic Youth had done approximately a decade earlier. The mid-1990s also spelled the last hurrah for the grunge explosion, with Pavement riding out the wave until almost 2000 before breaking up.
Throughout it all, Pavement showed just how much they didn't care, how much they don't follow music guidelines until they became the new "cool". The fact that Pavement did this while creating such perfect music that varied throughout their career is no small feat in the commercially dominated world.
It can all be summed up with: grunge music isn't considered very cool today (barring Nirvana), but Pavement is.