Review Summary: Quarantine the Past just goes to further emphasize how much there is to love about Pavement.
Ok, so here’s a band, the
seminal indie band of the 90s, reunited and back in the spotlight. It’s been eleven years and these now reasonably older gentlemen are about to go globetrotting for the first time in their career, a decade after that career had allegedly ended
, headlining festivals like Coachella, Roskilde and Primavera, not to mention four sold-out nights in a row at London’s Brixton Academy. How do you even begin to explain how remarkable a feat like that is for a mid-90s indie band that only once or twice, briefly, ever tumbled awkwardly into the focus of the mainstream lens" This remarkable slow-building buzz of which they never saw while still active, this peak of popularity nurtured by the internet age, all stemming from the roots of a devoted, ever-growing following that owed its allegiance to one of the first genuinely ‘big’ indie rock bands.
So then Quarantine the Past must surely just be a band scrapping together their best songs to cash in on their reclaimed fame" Well, no. Though classics like ‘Gold Soundz’, ‘Cut Your Hair’ and ‘Shady Lane’ all make appearances, amongst others, it certainly never seems like a ‘greatest hits’ collection, as some have dubbed it to be. Though arguably the bands two accepted classics, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted, are best represented, much of their career was defined by outstanding consistency, and the inclusion of almost as many Brighten the Corners tracks and various EP standouts is certainly a welcomed sight. In fact, Wowee Zowee is the only album of their five-year string of near-perfection (92-97) that finds itself ill represented (and I’m afraid the foam at the mouths of its diehard supporters will more than likely be out in full force). No, this is a little bit more thought out then simply a singles and favourites collection, a trait that is perhaps surprising coming from a band that derived most of its charm from sounding like they were making it up along the way; carefree at their best, carefree at their worst.
When you take into account the fact that those aforementioned four albums were each given sprawling love letters of reissues and special editions, it seems a bit useless to be coming out with a new compilation after all these years. The fact is, however, Quarantine the Past is convenient. This is Pavement showcasing Pavement. It’s an introduction for those who need introducing and a conclusion for those all too familiar. As an accessible collection of everything that characterized the indifferent darlings of a here-and-there generation, from Malkmus’ lazy drawl that always seemed unsure of where it was going next, to Spiral Stairs and his clean, intuitive electric wail, Quarantine the Past does exactly the opposite of what its title suggests: this compilation embraces everything adored about a band whose endless amount of admirers have long since grown up and repackages it in a way that is first and foremost meant to be appreciated by them, and then also by the generation between; the restless teens of a decade just past. These pioneers of the 90s broke up just before the radically changing face of the noughties emerged but their reunion has reintroduced a band that is still as relevant now as they ever have been and ever will be. Pavement created music without an expiry date; charming summertime ditties about girls and life and, at times, absolutely nothing that seemed to mean just about everything. This is rock n roll that did exactly what it promised to do, nothing more, nothing less, and that’s how they became a band that anyone could rely on.
In the end, Quarantine the Past comes across as a summary, a recap for all of you who slept through their best years, or a rerun for those of you, such as myself, who were still skinning your knees on the playground while Malkmus and co. were hanging out with Silver Jews and distributing cassettes of Slanted and Enchanted. It is a guided tour through the career of one of the most influential, adored and acclaimed bands of the 90s, led by five easygoing middle-aged slackers taking backwards glances at the lighthearted wisdom of their youth and damn if they aren’t the easiest guys in the world to get along with. They were never the loud guys or the comedians or the nerds, Pavement are the smiling, non-descript white males who would look you in the eyes and give it to you straight. They were honest, genuine above all things, and it’s that quality that makes them so endearing, so irresistible. Quarantine The Past simply reiterates and emphasizes everything that’s there to fall in love with, for the fan and the soon-to-be fan alike, and if you don’t find yourself in one of those two categories, well, that’s you and Billy Corgan. Tell him I said hi.