Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Malkmus Is Caught In That Mirror Traffic

The Pavement reunion in 2010 was one of those times when it felt good to lose your shit. For me, iconic, euphoric musical events such as these don't come by as often as they used to. 2009 saw The Pixies play Doolittle in its entirety at Brixton Academy, with B-sides, and they stuck unerringly to that - no best of/greatest hits segue here - and it blew my fucking mind. So Pavement, who were just as God-like in my eyes, should have been the same, no?

Unfortunately, no was right. Same venue, different vibe. With unruly yet laconic frontman Stephen Malkmus off to the side, singing, shimmying and noodling all on his lonesome whilst Spiral Stairs et al partied on the opposite side of the stage, it made for a strange, exciting yet slightly deflating experience. I took solace three days later when my sister went to the Pavement-curated ATP and stated that their set there pissed all over the Brixton show, but iconic moment for me became marred.

Still, I have had me some good Malkmus moments, all courtesy of his current band of operations, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. There was the time in 2001 where they played the inaugural Splendour In The Grass (back in the days it was only one day, where you could drink full strength anything and it was still affordable) and they did an amazing cover of Blondie's 'Heart Of Glass'. There was the time I saw them play '1% Of 1' in London and the instrumental wigout melted my face. Then there was the time I listened to Real Emotional Trash, whilst really trashed (and not just emotionally)...let's just say that fluids were consumed, tears were shed, and a tiger came out of the moon.

So we come to Mirror Traffic, the Jicks' fourth sojourn with Mr Malkmus. Some of my friends feel that his Jicks stuff is much more scattershot than Pavement - really? Have you listened to Pavement? They are the epitome of scattershot! - but for me it more than just a natural progression. Malkmus will never reach the heady heights that the godfathers of slackerdom inadvertently achieved. Yet Mirror Traffic is further testament that Malkmus is one of the best indie songwriters we have ever witnessed, and his guitar wizardry is still that bizarre double standard of razor-sharp yet fluidly languid - he makes it all look so easy. There are some killer tracks on here - ably aided in production duties by fellow 90s quirkster Beck - that swerve all over the 90s rock music palette, but he saves the best - such as Forever 28 or Share The Red - for that quintessential Pavement sound. And through it all you get the sense that Malkmus is really enjoying himself. That is what I missed on that Brixton show, that I know may have warmed up over the course of their reunions. That's the curse of getting them first, at their rustiest, their most nervous.

So we don't, and probably never will, have new Pavement material. This is the next best thing - and it's pretty damn fine by me. Mirror Traffic is out now through Domino Records.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Senator
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Forever 28
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Gorgeous Georgie

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