Is there really anything more to be written about Pavement? They’ve already become the touchstone in indie circles, with everyone from Robert Christgau to Los Campesinos! repping the band’s significance – and their sound, demeanor, and overall appearance have literally developed into the primary colors of the whole concept of indie rock. Quarantine The Past: The Best of Pavement comes after a decade of constant re-releases, bonus discs and live albums, so it shouldn’t surprise that it comes off as a final, all-encompassing victory lap. Luckily the tracks chosen reach deep enough to make it at the very least a respectable ‘best of’ compilation.
The Pavement discography is concise, five full-lengths, two of which are correctly regarded as irreplaceable classics, the other three being simply great but less than seminal. So it is a little unclear who Quarantine is actually for. Any diehard Pavement fan has heard all these songs before, and I doubt there’s a tangible group of people who’ve always wanted to “get into” Pavement but have never had the time and resources to do so. After all, anyone even remotely attached to the indie rock scene has had most of these songs (“Summer Babe,” “Cut Your Hair,” “Stereo”) permanently ingrained into their conscience. But either way, Quarantine does do the respectable thing and delves into the lesser known, and more cult-adored cuts. Crooked Rain highlights “Unfair” and “Heaven is a Truck” show up, as does the totally awesome (and totally underrated) “Date W/ Ikea,” and in an age of superficial, surface-scratching compilations (looking at you Radiohead: The Best Of) it’s certainly admirable. It’s also cheerfully long, 23 tracks and a post-hour running time, there is a lot of Pavement here.
If anything, Quarantine is a testament to just how good Pavement can sound ten years after the fact. The songs are oddly soothing, despite the legion of copycats, you just can’t do it like Pavement did. Their influence has permeated the usually self-contained scene of indie rock. It’s sprawling, danceable, introverted, extroverted, downright silly, stoned out of its mind, cynical, and bright-eyed all at the same time. And kids everywhere will be perfecting their cover of “Gold Soundz” for the foreseeable future. Quarantine is far from essential, but it’s not anywhere near a rehash – and it honestly comes off as a dazzling love-letter to one of music’s most legendary bands. And hey! It goes good with the reunion tour too.