Music Reviews

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Pig Lib


I’ve never understood what the big fuss with Pavement is. I’ve ridden through several waves where it’s been cool to make that last statement, and just as many where it isn’t. I’m not saying that Pavement is not a great band, because it is. But the way people talk about them, you’d think they magically turn your speakers into Quads and your diet cola to Crown Royal. This isn’t limited to Pavement, obviously – everyone (including myself) loves to pick up an underdog to champion, on the lottery-sized odds that maybe that infatuation is the beginning of something grander.

But that’s neither here nor there, nor is it entirely fair because Stephen Malkmus, who came from the aforementioned Pavement, and the Jicks, who are his band, really have put out a top-notch album, one that will be doubtlessly plagued by many (appropriate) comparisons to Pavement’s meticulously studied work. In much more simple and accessible terms, it simply rocks. It puts out that greatest-of-ease vibe common to the tribe that Malkmus and Pavement at one time led, where the angular screech of post-punk met the strangest bits of honey pop and pieces of prog-rock and congregated near Chapel Hill, NC.

True to form is the opening “Water and a Seat,” a downtempo number with dropped beats and a George Harrison bluesy tone to the whole thing. In comparison, “Vanessa From Queens” is a sweet sparkling number soaked in lovely organ and a snarky little guitar. “Dark Wave” recalls the propulsive death-surf sound that marked the early Pixies. There’s something clever to be said about all of the tracks on here – Malkmus has an innate ability to come up with the perfectly disjointed twist in melody, rhythm or chorus. To their credit, the Jicks (John Moen on drums, Mike Clark on keyboards, Joanna Bolme on bass) make the best of Malkmus’ distinctive songwriting style, a challenge that would dwarf most others.

I have no reservations in recommending Pig Lib – even the overblown “1% of One,” clocking in at over nine minutes, a combination of post-modernism and prog-folk if I ever heard it. One percent of one indeed.

Matador Records:

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