The touring return of Pavement has occasioned a “Best of” and an excuse to do a bit of historical research into why the were a band I never really clicked with back when they were all over the music press in the early 90s. On a couple of listens to the meaty 23 tracks selected here it’s not especially a surprise. Not because they’re no good - on the contrary. But the influences echo loudly. At the time, if you’d already heard Dinosaur Jr, the Breeders, the Fall you’d have needed another reason to fall for them. Pavement’s take was, either consciously or dope-cloudedly, California-hip which for many (especially the deeply unhip with a big wodge of heavy metal records) was bound to be a bit alienating.
Look back with a couple of decades’ distance though and you can see what Pavement did for a generation of indie bands. They took what was being done by those mentioned above, plus the likes of (importantly) Calvin Johnson and Sonic Youth, bundled it up into a more consistent, attractive set of songs - great to draw in any spotty youth looking for something to belong to but mark them as gently different at the same time. (If Pavement’s loose-limbed charm sometimes drifts into utter aimlessness, that’s as nothing next to toe-curling patchiness of things like early Sebadoh.) So in the same way that you can hear influences in their songs, you can hear what Pavement did to others’ ideas coming through in the bands of the last decade - from the anti-folkers to the likes of Conor Oberst to your better local bands (Smokers Die Younger round these parts). Their faults too - there’s a fair amount of the sort of navel-gazing music scene in-jokery which tediously reoccurs in a lot indie music now.
Nevertheless, as history lessons go, Quarantine the Past is enjoyable and laced with its fair share of charming and engaging tunes. I’m not especially regretting neglecting them, but I’m glad to have found what I have, and for what they’ve since helped to create.