You are being redirected - hold on tight!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Music Review: Malkmus Trash Has Flash, Songs That Last

Malkmus -- Check off "Ironic Mustache" on your Hipster Bingo card...

Pavement were the most indie of indie bands -- they were None More Indie. Initially low-fi, never on a major-label, often obtuse as much as catchy, even their most widely played video looked like something that cost $25. Yet as they went along, in the wake of the critically reviled Wowie Zowie (which has since seen something of a re-evaluation) they began to take on more attributes of what can only be termed as classic rock. Mellotron flutes swirled on "Transport is Arranged" and "Date With Ikea" was nearly Byrdsian with it's ringing guitar figure.

It was around this time that Phish began to cover the occasional Pavement song, striking what for many fans was the final death knell of a band that once trafficked in 2 minute bursts of tangled noise like "Baptist Blacktick." The jazzy expansiveness that jam-band aficionados were responding to has since been given free reign on Stephen Malkmus' post Pavement work with the Jicks.

Malkmus fans are further split over which SM they want to hear, as each of his albums have subtly changed the dynamics between poppy, quirky, jammy, and noisy while still essentially sounding more like each other than anything else in the music world. His first album was poppy, quirky, and for detractors a bit soulless. Album two, Pig Lib was weird and twistingly jammy, my personal favorite but a dud for some fans. His last album Face The Truth promised a return to eclectic noisy experimentism but to me sounded like a disjointed mess. Which brings us to Real Emotional Trash.

At this point Malkmus' style is pretty much set and there is nothing here that deviates from what he's done before. What does set this apart are sharp hooks and memorable melodies. Generally this falls into his jammier work with songs that crest the ten minute mark. It's the majority of shorter punchier songs that connect though, as much fun as it is to hear The Jicks work.

Drummer Janet Weiss, late of strident girl punks Sleater-Kinney and stripped down rockers Quasi adds a great deal of muscle behind the drumkit and the band is clearly having fun. Malkmus is one of the best guitarists out there, spinning out twisty phrases and solos and generally going all guitar god on everybody's asses.

This stands with Pig Lib as the strongest display of what Malkmus does as a solo artist. Songs like "Baltimore" combine his expansive instincts with his hooks ably, tremendous opener "Dragonfly Pie" stops around and suggests a pleasing skronkfest like the last albums "Pencil Rot" before finding its way to a sweetheart of a chorus. At this late stage Malkmus is unlikely to win over any converts but for those of us who enjoy the Gospel this comes on as a treat, even if the long stuff is simply too long.

No comments: