As I've become more cynical and crazier, I've realized that Pavement is a band that gets better with age. No doubt about it, Pavement rocked, but they also had a sense of humor. Humor wasn't very prevalent in the early-to-mid-'90s alternative rock nation when rock was meant to be "serious" again. Depending on your viewpoint, rock from any era (including the 1980s!) can be serious and life-changing. For somebody that hit puberty as the alternative nation spread across the US suburbs, I was slowly introduced to the ocean of underground bands/labels that keeps the mainstream afloat.
I have my theories as to why Pavement was so appealing when they were around and why they are still appealing today:
1) They weren't too serious, but they weren't too silly.
There is a rather large line between the sides and Pavement walked the line very well. You could say that "Cut Your Hair" is a silly pop song about long-haired bands, but upon closer inspection, there is a lot more being said. When I hear the line, "Songs mean a lot/when songs are bought," I can't help but think of people that feel that a song "means" something or has some form of "worth" because they sell. Sure, songs/albums may sell a lot of copies, but that's from a business angle, not a gauge as to if they actually mean anything to the listener.
2) They never jumped ship to a major label.
Pavement has to be commended for staying on Matador. In an era where major labels were seen as the only way for an underground alternative band to break through to a larger audience, staying on an indie seemed crazy.
3) They appeared to be slackers but they weren't.
Just because they wore loose thrift store clothing, sang slightly off-key and didn't play notes in the "right" keys does not mean they were Gen X slackers. They cared about their music, but they weren't taking it too seriously.
I'm sure there are more to add, but I think those are the three big ones. Recommended listening for starters: Slanted and Enchanted, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Brighten the Corners.