Review of and The Jicks - Pig Lib Album by Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

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Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Pig Lib (released 17.03.03) Reviewed

The former main man of seminal college rock heroes Pavement is back with a follow up to his critically acclaimed eponymous solo debut album. This time to emphasise the communal endeavour, the additional post-Pavement musicians are not hidden on the liner notes, but get equal billing as The Jicks.

Stephen Malkmus is such a constantly inventive songwriter that almost inevitably his new release will be hit and miss. Pig Lib certainly lives up to this expectation. There is an enormous amount to admire on the album because, when Malkmus reins in his more excessive experimentation he creates songs of wonderfully absurd melancholia.

Standout track 'Vanessa From Queens' begins with the lyric 'There is aggression in the air this morning / Got your tights around my head / In a samurai pose on the bed'. The surreal lyrics are delicately sung with a Robert Smith flourish over the kind of deceptively simple melody that characterises the best Badly Drawn Boy tune. The same template is used just as impressively on 'Animal Midnight' and 'Ramp Of Death' where acid rock guitar inflections complement rather than overwhelm the songs.

The best exponents of Malkmus' patented brand of lo-fi rock, like Sparklehorse and Grandaddy, contort and partially mask the tunes that infuse their music, but however disguised the melody remains central to the song. Frustratingly on much of Pig Lib

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Pig Lib (released 17.03.03) Reviewed @
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Pig Lib (released 17.03.03) Reviewed @

Malkmus allows his creative impulse to disguise the tune so effectively that at times it cannot resurface. On '1% Of One', he seems to be parodying the professionally parodic Tenacious D. The song has a faux epic structure, irritating falsetto vocal, intrusive guitar solo, prog rock tempo changes and finally a lengthy eventually discordant instrumental. The first track, 'Water And A Seat', commits an arguably more heinous crime by sounding like Steely Dan.

An album that veers outrageously from the sublime to the ridiculous and then somehow manages to combine the two extremes is not going to win Stephen Malkmus the elusive commercial bonus of mainstream success. Fans of his previous offerings will not be too upset though, because who really wants their favourite indie bands to start playing stadium gigs.

Apparently, the album shares a title with an episode of BBC sitcom The Good Life. Bizarre certainly, but surely it can be nothing more than a strange coincidence. Then again, when it comes from an album that includes the line, 'Do not feed the oysters under the cloud / They will suck you like a seagull into the sound', it is perhaps safer not to make assumptions.

Gavin Eves