Pavement

Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement

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Pavement’s first compilation takes its title from a lyric Stephen Malkmus sings on “Gold Soundz,” a line about how “you can never quarantine the past” -- which, of course, is precisely what a retrospective like this intends to do, to present a nice, tidy overview to accompany the group’s 2010 reunion. Of course, it’s always difficult to assemble a best-of package for a band that never had any hits, and Pavement only had one -- 1994’s alt rock puncturing “Cut Your Hair” -- which means it’s possible to endlessly quibble about the other 22 tracks on Quarantine the Past, especially since the compilers decided to leave the singles “Father to a Sister of Thought,” “Rattled by the Rush,” and “Carrot Rope” behind, and fan favorite Wowee Zowee is represented by just two tracks, the same number culled from the 1992 EP Watery, Domestic. That might seem an idiosyncratic choice, but there’s no arguing that “Frontwards” and “Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)” should be here alongside “Here,” “Summer Babe,” “Box Elder,” “Debris Slide,” “Grounded,” “Trigger Cut,” “Range Life,” “Shady Lane,” and “Stereo,” the songs that provide the foundation of any strong Pavement overview. And while it’s possible to make strong arguments that some of the surrounding tracks should have been replaced by other songs -- not just the aforementioned singles, but anything from “Forklift” to “The Hexx” -- everything here is excellent, everything illustrates the range and depth of the best indie rock band of the ‘90s. So, think of Quarantine the Past as a cousin to Hot Rocks or the Red and Blue Albums: it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, but as a primer, it’s hard to beat.

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