In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read several glowing reviews of this new record from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Inevitably, they compare it to the rest of his solo output, as well as all the work he did with that most amazing band, Pavement. Fair enough, since that’s what reviewers are prone to doing anyway.
Comparisons are for those other writers, though. I just try to go with my gut instinct when I write these things, I really do, and my gut tells me that I am well and truly happy whenever Mr. Malkmus steps back into the fray with another effort, no matter what it sounds like. I can make these leaps with him because very rarely are his records even close to mediocre, let alone bad.
This album is all over the sonic map, as ever. Anyone buying this man’s records at this point has been served fair warning for a long time now that he’ll come up with fantastically spacey, groovy expeditions that titillate your sense and leaving you gasping for more. The man understands the anatomy of rock, and all of its influences, just like a doctor understands the human body. But better yet, often times he chooses to ignore that anatomy and wander off on his own explorations to see if new connections can be made within the structure. Often times he is successful, and that makes him a true pioneer.
There’s enough beauty and strength here to make the hoards of other, lesser songwriters cry into their beers. He twists and he turns, and he does the unexpected so consistently that it’s become expected that, at the very least, that is what he’ll do. This record definitely does not disappoint in this regard.
Malkmus has always been a superlative guitar player, endlessly creative and intuitive. His vocals, in their own right, are a distinctive signature instantly recognizable and, at the same time, entirely comforting. As a listener, I embrace the oddities and the largess of the weirdness of this band’s music, because I know it’s all coming from a pure place. The Jicks recognize this completely, and they are so tightly behind him wherever he goes at any given moment that these projects have the stuff of solid gold about them. What a great band.
There’s only one song on this disc shorter than 3 minutes (at 2:54), and the longest is just over 10 minutes long. These are jams, freak-outs, experimental trips into the mind and soul of one of alternative rocks great leaders. It’s funky, rockin’ and roomy enough for everyone to find at least ten things they like about it (and easily more than that, too).
For some reason, it sounds to me like this record would sound great playing in a record shop while you browse the racks. In fact, if I was in a shop and this was on, I’d buy it off them straight away. Then again, it would also sound great in the car on a long road trip through some vast expanse of prairie. These tunes would happily eat up the miles like they were nothing at all. Fill your house with these sounds. You’ll be glad you did.
Open up the case and plug in this disc. I’ll bet it takes a long time before another disc ousts this one from your player. A long time, indeed.
Inside the cover, on the yellow background of the booklet, it says: “The Jicks Is Funky Music They’s A Powerhouse.” (sic). Well, amen to that, brother. Amen to that.
01 Dragonfly Pie
02 Hopscotch Willie
03 Cold Son
04 Real Emotional Trash
05 Out Of Reaches
08 Elmo Delmo
09 We Can’t Help You
10 Wicked Wanda
This CD really reminds me of Montreal, and that’s a happy thing. A friend from that time, Pat, loved this CD too. We talked about it all the time. Of course, we’re both big Pavement fans, and this being the first Malkmus we’d heard following Pavement’s end, we devoured it like we hadn’t had anything to eat in days.
Well, people come and people go and, wherever Pat is now, I’m sure he still loves this CD (and he’s probably still a hippie, at heart). For me, I still think it’s awesome (and I even know where I am, most days).
Every song here is typical Malkmus, so if you’ve ever heard his stuff, you’ll know it’s quirky, absolutely tuneful, a little weird, thoughtful, lyrically staggering, hilarious, full of genius guitar work, and just a whole lotta fun to listen to all ‘round. Yeah, this CD is worth every second.
I try not to pick highlight tracks when reviewing albums, mainly because if you haven’t heard the record, and then I tell you the songs I liked, you’ll go into hearing it for the first time with those songs already in your head as ones to which you should pay particular attention. Well, with this record I couldn’t even pick one song over another, so relax. They’re all great.
If you haven’t got it already, go ahead and buy this record. Play it repeatedly. Let it grow on you (and it surely will). It may not remind all of you of Montreal, as it does for me, but it’ll definitely make you happier than any other CD you’ve heard in a long, long time.