Pavement – [Album]

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Even at the height of the band's powers in the mid-Nineties, Pavement was never allowed to stand on its' own two feet, autonomous from anyone else making music around the same time. They drew near-constant comparisons to other guitar-driven bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk – they even got called “the bookish Nirvana” at one point – and, listening now, one has to wonder what critics were listening to that led them to such conclusions. Sure – there's no arguing that Pavement was most comfortable in the indie/alternative nation and they were never so poppy as Nirvana, nor did they rely on monster riffs like Dinosaur Jr. did. If anything, Pavement was the level-headed, perfectly sane (until they got pushed around so much that they started pushing back – check “Range Life” for an extended dismissal of everything the band wasn't) answer to all of the bombast and earnest anti-posturing so prevalent in alt-rock, almost from the moment the genre broke into the mainstream. To focus the difference that Pavement represented to almost everything else that was happening at the dawn of alt-rock, the band always put its energy into fine songwriting that was complimented by a textural ambiance; one was not necessarily responsible for the other and the textural sounds in Pavement's songs were never presented as hooks. That denial should eliminate any lingering comparison to Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth or Nirvana, and really should leave Pavement standing all unto itself but, if proof is required on top of that, it's right here in Quarantine The Past. The comp covers the breadth of Pavement's career from Slay Tracks (1933 – 1969) to Terror Twilight but, unlike so many other comps its' type, totally ignores temporal continuity in favor of developing and maintaining a solid flow. It's an unlikely mix, but one that builds a fantastic aura as “Gold Soundz” (from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994) slips and slides on spidery chords into “Frontwards” (from the Watery, Domestic EP, 1992) but the transitions come together like the most natural things in the world; with each track, a thematic ebb and flow begins to build and fuel the excitement in the songs. That sort of vibe and flow continues as the band methodically and fluidly touches all the bases fans would hope for, but also drops epiphanies  in the transitions between songs like “Range Life” and “Date W/IKEA”; creating and intricate and addictive latticework that showcases the compositional capacities and strengths of singer Steve Malkmus and guitarist Scott Kannberg, but does it in such an unassuming and facile way that it lets listeners feel at ease with anything that comes along in the run-time. In that way, Quarantine The Past doesn't seem to express itself like a “stand up and cheer for this band!” record so much as simply one that sets up all the reasons why people should want to pay attention confidently; it doesn't smash anyone over the head. It's the perfect way to introduce Pavement to new, potential listeners – as an inevitable event, not an earnest one – and will perfectly refresh the memories of longtime listeners get them excited as well. At around the same time this release was announced, so too came the announcement that Pavement was reforming which makes this album even more ideal in a lot of ways; Quarantine The Past features great songs and an intoxicating methodology – it'll hook listeners and get them out to the shows where the band can show them that perfect sound can indeed be forever.



Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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