I had eagerly awaited Tuesday’s release of Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks newest LP since Mirror Traffic finished its first excellent spin around my turntable back sometime in 2011. As a Pavement devotee, I’d followed Malkmus’ career like my kids were locked in the back, but the leaner, tougher production on tracks like ‘Senator’ and ‘Forvever 28’ were unexpected and incredibly thrilling. In a flash, Rock ‘N’ Roll was back from the dead.
Malkmus has been busy for the past few years. The record store day release of his live tribute to the classic Ege Bamyasi early last spring sent me into a spiral. Videos for the singles ‘Lariat’ and ‘Cinnamon and Lesbians’ have been floating around for a little while twisting half- smiles all down the information super-highway. Each is the result of their separate, yet endlessly endearing, aloofness. And as the onslaught of premature reviews crowded up Google search results all week, I found myself in the familiar position of reading the same review over and over. Lately, when a new record drops its as if the same review gets rewritten on every site. It wouldn’t bother me, but for the fact the information seems to disseminate from some music writer with the insight on an earth-worm.
Its most often claimed that the Pavement songwriter’s lyrics are meaningless. He’ll be the first to say it. They are not. Malkmus’ post-90’s lyrical stance has been that of uninterrupted profundity and silliness. Tossing non-sequitors and putting the ideas between the lines is Malkmus’ trademark, just listen to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (which celebrates its 20th aniversery this year). In more ways than one, he’s kinda our Zappa.
Wig Out… and Mirror Traffic are shorter and tighter records than in the past, yet they are every bit as uneven. Their jagged tugs, unexpected detours, and off the cuff performances are their strengths. The Jicks has never been a band for symmetry. There’s a persistent claim that there aren’t any guitar jams or heroics on this record. Bullshit, the song are just tighter. The intro to one of the albums sweetest melodies “Houston Hades” serves as proof of the marvelous line they have decided to draw. Handled by a lesser band the tune would start with a slide guitar intro and slow build. Nah, not from the Jicks. The Jicks genre hop from measure to measure, and don’t seem like they have time for anything else.