Wig Out At Jagbags
I’ve found it hard to care about the albums Stephen Malkmus has released, post-Pavement, with The Jicks (a bit of a floating roster of always-decent players). The first couple, sure. Then that one that Beck produced; hey, they were always worth checking in on – just hard to care about, seldom worth returning. But this new one is superb – rivalling the final Pavement albums (because the sound is more toward the Pavement of the last couple of records than those first ones, if we’re forcing the comparison, which, apparently, I am…)
On Wig Out Malkmus is once again funny; that’s crucial. And he’s clearly happy – he sounds happy. And ain’t it always nice to check in on old heroes and find them sounding both happy and good – like it happens all that often, actually.
I can’t help, too, but force the comparison with Frank Black. You see, Mr. Black, this is the correct way to go about it – do your reunion, play the shows, then come back to whatever your post-band project is and release new material as yourself, not as what you used to be.
Here Malkmus bends around some of the taunts and accusations – the title is a hint to that (jagbags being, apparently, a slang term for knowitalls, don’t you know. And if you didn’t, you do now. Nah-nah-na) – and takes the piss out of himself and the uptight portions of his old audience in equal measure.
On Rumble At The Rainbo we have the idea of punk-rock band reunions being mocked – and, yes, it’s Malkmus, so it’s served up with a wink, sometimes with a drawly-mouthed eye-roll too.
But musically this is full of ideas, those spirally, spidery guitar parts, there are horns too – happy horns. And on J Smoov he attempts a kind of cool-country late-night-soul thing; the sort that Evan Dando might have been able to once do if he ever removed finger from a-hole.
Lariat has Malkmus remembering the music of the past, those happy hippie days living “on Tennyson and venison and The Grateful Dead”. God I hope someone buys Jeff Tweedy a copy of this record, he could do with hearing someone not taking themselves too seriously ever and always. Lariat almost stumbles into Pavement-parody land. But you know what – it’s all the fucking better for it. It has an anthem/chant-along feel to the chorus and it just feels so good to hear this, to want to join in.
One of the first really great records of 2014 and a giant surprise to my ears that it came from Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. But he’s now released more albums without Pavement than he did with Pavement – perhaps that moment provides the perfect tipping point. At any rate, this is a terrific record. One that’ll have you hitting repeat.