Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags
A Stephen Malkmus album is always chock full of irony. And this one is no exception. Take the title. It suggests an uncontrolled frenzy with plenty of long, FX-heavy guitar jams. In fact, though, this is a really tight album. Sure, there are some wig-like guitar sounds on some of the songs, notably the opener ‘Planetary Motion’. But this is a very restrained Stephen Malkmus. There’s no room here for anything like ‘1% Of One’, ‘No More Shoes’, or ‘Real Emotional Trash’. Instead, this time he just wants to get the hook into your head and move on. Mission accomplished. A Stephen Malkmus album is also always jam-packed with fancy word plays. And, again, this one doesn’t disappoint. While there’s no room here for a full-blown, whacked-out story like ‘Hopscotch Willy’, there’s still plenty of space for some truly surreal nuggets. How about: “We lived on Tennyson and venison and The Grateful Dead”? Or perhaps, “Pictionary, Nixon-Kerry, Condoleezza’s Rice, Scattered on the floor”? No. Well, maybe “Shanghaied in Oregon, Cinnamon and Lesbians” is more your thing? Despite the familiar elements, there are some changes. This album contains perhaps his quietest, most laid-back, late-night, wound-down song ever. Complete with gentle trumpets and soothing synths, ‘J Smoov’ will have die-hard Pavement fans turning in their bedsits. There’s also a more upbeat brassy sound to ‘Chartjunk’. It’s a moot point as to whether it works. It’s not in-your-face brass, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. Generally, though, the whole thing is reassuringly Malkmusesque. So, when he channels a punk spirit on ‘Rumble At The Rainbo’, his tongue is firmly in his cheek. “Come slam dancin’ with some ancient dudes”, he sings, “We are returnin’, returnin’ to our roots, No new material just cowboy boots”. Well, this is Stephen Malkmus. So, those boots were made for talking. And that’s just what he’ll do.