Indie STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS Real Emotional Trash (Domino) Out Mar 3

21 February 2008

Jason Cleeton

When your last band was as life-affirmingly brilliant as underground heroes Pavement, it can be hard to put that behind you, as Malkmus has found. To be fair, his subsequent output has often deserved more recognition, especially when compared to the indie-lite churned out by former bandmate Scott Kannberg with his Preston School Of Industry. With this, his fourth album with the Jicks, he can surely lay that ghost to rest for good.

The Jicks are a jammier proposition than Pavement ever were, and it’s easy to be put off by this, but the freedom this new band presents Malkmus and his guitar is often inspiring. On the 10-minute title track, an intense guitar jam breaks into a rollicking romp, before the song is brought to a dreamy close. That dreaminess allows Malkmus’ distinctive guitar tone to soar. It positively swoons on the wonderful Hopscotch Willy, a curious 7 minute ode to the conviction of the title character for a murder he may or may not have committed.

The Jicks embellish songs with keyboards as well as guitars, and frequently take unexpected twists and turns akin to the Fiery Furnaces, not least on Baltimore where a call-and-response evolves between guitar and toy keyboard. It’s clear that Malkmus’s playful side is intact, both lyrically and musically: the catchy chorus for Dragonfly Pie testifies to this, and he’s still one of the few people who could get away with a line as silly as “Dragonfly wants a piece of pie”. Vocally, he’s only got better with age, covering multiple octaves on Hopscotch Willy and babbling in tongues by the end of Cold Son.

Real Emotional Trash convinces that, even as he enters his 40s, Stephen Malkmus remains as vital a guitarist and songwriter as ever.