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If Only Hillary Clinton Were More Like Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus

She could have worn a Fuck Art Let’s Dance shirt to the debate

Goateed pundit Chuck Todd, who looks like he wears OshKosh B’gosh overalls on the weekends, and whose political analysis wafts through the airwaves like delicate grey ash from Mount Vacuous, observed that Hillary Clinton seemed “over-prepared” during Monday night’s debate against Donald Trump.

“Over-prepared,” like “undercooked” or “overwrought,” is usually a pejorative term, especially when applied to appearances. It’s one thing to actually over-prepare; some might even say it’s appropriate when applying for the job of Most Powerful Human on Earth. It’s quite another thing, however, to accidentally reveal that over-preparation. Todd’s criticism implied that Clinton wasn’t cool—that she was trying too hard, that she seemed thirsty.

Some of my readers may remember ’90s college rock and slacker culture with fondness. Apparently, so does Chuck Todd. Because it sounds like Chuck Todd wanted Hillary Clinton to be more like Stephen Malkmus: all floppy shirtsleeves and flawless indie cred. The charm of Malkmus’s songwriting, singing, and guitar-playing was the sloppy effortlessness on display. In contrast to overproduced “corporate rock,” Malkmus’s Pavement always sounded like a band that just fell out of bed and accidentally hit Record. Accidental brilliance in spite of itself was the golden currency of that musical era, at least for liberal-arts grads who secretly wanted to be Peter Frampton. Pavement was cool; Rush was not.

No matter that for all his nonsense lyrics and drawling and noodling, Malkmus always somehow managed to hit his marks—he was blessed with enough talent and discipline to make everything look easy, which turned him into an icon for twenty-somethings who assumed the internet bubble would last forever and that they could always get a real job next week if their band somehow didn’t manage to get signed to Sub Pop or Matador.

I was one of those idiots.

And now, I wonder if Chuck Todd was too. Did he see Clinton’s relentless, suffocating citations of facts and figures and talking points and data sets as a betrayal of the late-’90s indie-rock code: Never Let Them See You Try? Was her ostentatious display of competence the oratorical equivalent of Neil Peart’s preposterous thicket of drums and cymbals and who-knows-what-the-fuck-kind-of-ethnic-windchime-he’s-plinking-on-now?

The only way to make sense of Chuck Todd’s criticism of “over-preparation” is to assume that somewhere, in an old Doc Martens shoebox, perhaps, or wedged in between two unopened cans of OK Soda, there is a three-song demo cassette of Chuck Todd’s indie-rock band, circa 1996.

It’s also the only way to make sense of his goatee.