‘Genuine’ 4th album from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
March 13, 2008
When indie rock heroes Pavement broke up in 1999, fans and critics alike took it to heart. As one of the most prominent acts in the 1990s, the split left people wondering where each member would venture. Mark Ibold dabbled in multiple side projects like Free Kitten, Kim Gordan’s (of Sonic Youth) second band and bartending in New York City. Some, like Bob Nastanovich and Scott Kannberg went to form new bands with moderate success, The Silver Jews and Preston School of Industry, respectively. But it was front man Stephen Malkmus who would continue to pave way for new sounds, new voices and a new sense of self.
On their fourth album, Real Emotional Trash, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks forgo the usual path of indie rock (going nuts with experimentation) and instead focus on what they know best: writing genuine music. On “Dragonfly Pie,” Malkmus feasts on psychedelic rock, fusing the likes of Jimi Hendrix into his guitar. The opening riff takes cue from “Spanish Castle Magic,” fuzzed-out amps quickly transform into another beast, although Malkmus gets kudos for using a vibraphone where most would prefer the usual guitar format.
But that doesn’t mean Malkmus shies from his ax — it’s actually the opposite. Malkmus’ past albums were more eclectic in their instrumentation, but on “Real Emotional Trash,” he gets lost in an ocean of feedback, allowing his steel strings to talk for him. Good thing too, as most of his words drift into random gibberish. “At the center where they go on weekdays … It takes hours just to slay that thirst … At the heels of a daunting pulse rate … Bad idea for your blistered toes,” Malkmus sings on “Cold Son.” What does it mean? No clue. But the truth is you’ll be stunned by the amount of feeling, not being strapped down by lyrics, and you won’t care.
Malkmus is on top of his game along with the rest of his band, including the magnificent drumming Janet Weiss of the now-disbanded Sleater-Kinney. Need proof? Take a ride with the hypnotizing “Elmo Delmo,” or the power house “Wicked Wanda.”
The only song that drags is “We Can’t Help You,” but it’s only three minutes. Easily forgivable, but if nothing else, at least give in the album’s best song of the same name. A 10-minute masterpiece of change, fret work and bliss and you may just have one of the best songs to come out this year.
Malkmus may be rid of his emotional trash, but this album is not something to dispose of.
Matthew Loosbrock is a student at UW-River Falls.