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Pavement- ‘Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement’ (Album Review)

They nicked it all off The Fall, could barely carry a tune in an industrial excavator and sounded like they recorded everything in a studio made from rusty tin buckets under Stockton, California’s biggest heap of hashish. Yet Pavement were the pinnacle of lo-fi slacker-pop brilliance, influencing everyone from Blur and Radiohead to Grizzly Bear and Egyptian hip hop. And in its unassuming, shambly sort of way, this 23 track retrospective proves why.

Stripped of much of their extraneous studio mumblings (although this is nobly represented in the form of ‘Mellow Jazz Docent’ and ‘Date w/IKEA’), here some of the greatest (and laziest) pop tunes of the ’90s – ‘Gold Soundz’, ‘Cut Your Hair’, ‘Shady Lane’, ‘Trigger Cut’, ‘Range Life’, ‘Summer Babe (Winter Version)’ – shuffle languorously between tunes that are among the most inventively esoteric in rock history. The glitterless glam rock of ‘Two States’, the wobbly grunge fury of ‘Unfair’ and the proto-‘Yellow’ of the fantastic ‘Here’ make for one of the wonkiest and unpredictable Best Ofs in living memory.

At their most sardonic, Pavement were one of alt.rock’s canniest commentators, lobbing pebbles at pop culture from somewhere far beneath: ‘Range Life’ slagged off Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins at a time when only Courtney Love was proclaiming the tediousness of Billy Corgan and ‘Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence’ is essentially a fanboy ode to Michael Stipe in song, listing and rating REM records. The ore of modern Pitchfork rock is here, laid out in all its flawed-diamond beauty. For a canon so flagrant in its faults, ‘Quarantine…’ is all-but faultless.