Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks CD review by Dave Rick

Music Reviews
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks CD review by Dave Rick
Mar 3, 2008, 03:56

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (Bonus Track Version)


Pavement was a spring loosely un-sprung. A close-to-spent jack-in-the-box always packed and primed for a flaccid non-surprise. Their music was laconic, crooked, and only begrudgingly determined to entertain. After The Fall influence and Gary Young were cast aside their elements came together in a fragile but oddly dynamic live powerhouse. Instructively, this happened around the time of Wowee Zowee, always my favorite of their releases.

Along with Guided By Voices, Pavement unintentionally, and no doubt begrudgingly, created the defining expression for a segment of the music-buying public supposedly skirting definition. More recently, the reigning yin and yang of Bob Pollard and Stephen Malkmus, have gone truly independent, and at times laid out great challenges to the faithful. Though they broke up their respective bands, there was no intention of rock-and-roll suicide.

Malkmus's The Jicks, now two-and-a-half recordings into existence (they were only partially used on the previous Face the Truth), betray a solidarity and joy. They are playful and at ease with themselves and their master. In fact, I sense the group leader would gladly entrench with his soldiers given the chance. He gives himself that chance on Real Emotional Trash.

While his melodies stay true to form, his continuing joy in skewering the undercarriage of the songs is the source of strength. Parts is parts, and there are a lot, but they come together tight and loose. The stuff is congealing and flowing thicker than water. There is a non-sheen of digitally recorded claustrophobia, but the interplay is real and in real time. Arrangements are made, but everybody fulfills their roles on time and in time. The group leader revels and wallows gleefully in steely tones and fuzz tones, notes composed aside some unscripted and eventful soloing.

It's a good thing the music is so engaging. Stephen Malkmus is a wordsmith with a penchant for density and twists and turns of phrase. But his lyrics now seem to wallow in a shallow of warmed-over pun. I'm finding it difficult to care about his targets or willing to take the ride with his arrows. It may be ironic that the crowned king of irony comes off as witty yet somehow without his wit. And while it's frequently free of anger or disdain there's likely nothing else. I've already read some blog-and forum-hounds bucking horns and banging theses over what Malkmus is supposedly saying at the heart of his trademark and entertainingly cluttered soliloquies. But, as is par, the web nerds fail to see the pink Rorschach in the room.

Malkmus's flat vocal affect betrays little of the heat given off by the other instruments and at some point the distinction is neither unique nor revealing. One of the mouths that defined the era just predating digital recording, that which circumvented industry disdain, costs and control and came to be known as lo-fi, has seen fit to give voice to a simply musical expression. Maybe if it's real emotional it's time to stop talking and get on with the feeling. [Matador]

-Dave Rick


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