Although it seems inappropriate to use a word like 'legend' to describe a man who has been actively dismissive of any mainstream acceptance for over 20 years now, there is a strong case to be made that Stephen Malkmus is one. Whether with Pavement, Silver Jews or, as he is now, with his Jicks in tow, nobody quite sounds like Malkmus and that is once more the case on his sixth album with the Jicks, 'Wig Out at Jag Bags'.
Over the course of his solo career, Stephen Malkmus has experimented with two fairly distinct styles; either wading through lengthy, wailing, psychedelic guitar freak-outs or putting in solid, quirky pop turns. 'Wig Out at Jag Bags' focuses more on the latter sound, but there does seem to be a little more crossover between the flavours than on previous releases, most notably on the album's opening number 'Planetary Motion', which has jam band tendencies condensed inside a three minute pop song which shifts effortlessly between staccato and smooth vibes, with a great deal of that trademark guitar noodling in between.
There is a lot of Malkmus weirdness going on in 'Wig Out at Jag Bags', such as the dissonant, rumbling 'Shibboleth' and the all-out attack that is 'Chartjunk' which culminates in a breath taking guitar solo. You cannot really talk about a Stephen Malkmus album without mentioning the lyrics and there are plenty of classic couplets on offer here, including the rhyming of "Hades" with "Slim Shadies", but the real magic here is in the music.
Continue reading: Stephen Malkmus - Wig Out at Jagbags Album Review
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Real Emotional Trash
Former Pavement frontman Stephan Malkmus and friends may be performing on the Domino label in the UK, but anyone expecting the urban Gnosticism and thundering guitar chops of label mates the Arctic Monkeys or the albino new wave funk of fellow colleagues Franz Ferdinand will be in for something of a surprise.
His fourth album with The Jicks in support, Real Emotional Trash again finds Malkmus striving to finally exorcise the ghosts of his critically adorned alma mater. First the simple stuff; questions about the equality of the creative process - following the largely basement recorded solo hubris of previous outing Face The Truth - are rebutted emphatically. The vibe here is all band, aided perhaps by decamping to the distraction-free isolation of rural Montana. This refound sense of democracy is however the situation's beauty and it's undeniable Achilles heel, because just as the output is leant a sense of rhythmic cohesion by former Sleater-Kinney drummer and new-ish recruit Janet Weiss, it seems like no idea found it's way to the cutting room floor, resulting in a set of ever expanding jams which can occasionally feel like an endurance test.
What the hell. Inevitably, neophytes attracted to Real Emotional Trash will be few. With that in mind and as the audience are converts who'll voluntarily wade through the more self indulgent stanzas, it's easy to conclude that they'll still get their kicks. Influences are also refreshingly un-hipster, with opener Dragonfly Pie chewing ruminatively on the recently exhumed riffs of Led Zeppelin and being followed by the freewheeling Doors-esque mantra Hopscotch Willy. So far, so reverential, but still palpably accessible. But then - as if Malkmus has decreed that these were merely hors douveres and the perseverance required to get even that far is something of a token gesture - things get REALLY attritional. The title track comes in at over ten loose limbed and frequently esoteric minutes, the rumbling Baltimore psychedelically grinds its way through nearly seven and Elmo Delmo is both longer than that AND hippier than the Maharishi smoking a hookah pipe in a kaftan factory. There are lighter moments requiring less cerebral involvement, such as the chiming (And relatively brief) 60's tinged Gardenia, whilst evidently Wicked Wanda has been teleported in from the White album, but these pleasant surprises only serve to underline the conclusion which the non-partisan listener will have reached long before the end: that it's unclear what the rest of us non-acolytes are sticking around for.
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