We all have those friends who are the DJs—the music gurus—of our lives. Mine have committed a crime of omission: a crime of irresponsible neglect. They somehow let me live through my teens and early twenties without ever hearing Pavement. How did this happen?
Pavement was not commercially successfully enough to catch my ephemeral attention when they disbanded in 1999, just as I was developing decent taste in music. But this shoud not have kept them off the radar for the next decade. For shame music gurus. I had to discover Pavement on my own thanks to their 23 track Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement.
Because I have never heard a full Pavement album, I cannot say anything about “notable exclusions” and “questionable inclusions” on this sampling platter of lo-fi cuisine, but having what I think of as good taste in music, I can tell you, I like what I’m hearing!
The lead singer, Stephen Malkmus, cannot sing—a common curse of some great lyricists—but his lyrics are excellent and sometimes I can’t help but love his adorable warblings; “Spit on a Stranger” is a good example…and also a great title. His Smashing Pumpkins bashing in “Range Life” is comical (“I don’t understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck”), and in “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” he musically lists the tracks from R.E.M.’s Reckoning. Apparently, “Time After Time” is his least favourite song (and he’ll scream it twice to make sure you remember it).
I had a few moments of déjà vu with this compilation making me think I had heard Pavement before, but no. I was recognising their influence on other bands I like. “Range Life” (mentioned above) has vocal similarities to The Thrills, and the guitar in “Shady Lane / J vs. S”, my favourite song from this greatest hits, is akin to Death Cab’s “Photobooth” (another song with great lyrics). A taste from “Shady Lane”: “You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life”.
If you were more attentive to musical trends between 1989 and 1999 and liked Pavement, then you probably have all these songs and don’t need this album. But, if you were deaf back then like I was, and you are now experiencing a hankering for some well-written rock, I highly recommend this convenient quarantine of the past.
My Favourites (in album order): “Stereo”, “Cut Your Hair”, “Shady Lane / J vs. S”, “Range Life”, “Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)”, “Spit on a Stranger”, “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence”