Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks Album Review

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags”
There is a certain unwritten law that any reference to Stephen Malkmus has to begin with the words “Ex Pavement”. This must be somewhat annoying given the amount of material he has released since that band. The latest of which is “Wig Out At Jagbags”, I am not quite sure what or where Jagbags is, or actually what is meant by Wig Out but if the album is anything to go by, it must be pretty good!

Opening up with “Planetary Motion”, this song is perhaps an intro for those fans of his former band. It has that trademark fuzz tone in the guitar sound and is the closest to that American, post grunge, indie sound. “Shibboleth” adds a rumbling bass to the sound and this gives it a darker and menacing tone.This is a sound which is then repeated on the “Independent Street” which has a melancholic feel but is still built on a nice melody. It has a tone, however, that is somewhat different to a lot of the other songs on the album.

Perhaps a better indicator of the overall sound of the album is given by “The Janitor Revealed”. This has a much lighter feel, and an almost breezy sound and is reminiscent of a Brendan Benson type song. The opening mixture of sounds on the album is best demonstrated by “Houston Hades”, which begins with a wall of guitar feedback but then suddenly shifts to a more peaceful and restrained sound. This more blissful element to the album reaches it’s peak with ” J Smooth” which can only be described as a beautiful song, with a feel of a summer morning.

The first single off the album, is “Lariat” which you couldn’t have missed if you listen to BBC Six Music where, quite rightly, it has got a lot of air play. It is no wonder that it is a single, as it’s a corker of a song which is joyful and almost verges on power pop. The good news is that this is not the only song which is likely to make a great and popular single. “Rumble At The Rainbo” will surely be released as a single at some point. You can’t beat a song that adds an almost ‘pop’ feel but then also name checks Johnny Thunders. Add to that some brilliant tongue in cheek comments on lost youth and it’s a great combination. This song forms a double whammy of upbeat songs alongside “Chart Junk”. This is another song which would be perfect for the radio and has a great mid song guitar line. The theme of recalling youth or reliving younger days features on a number of the lyrics throughout the album. This is certainly true on “Cinnamon & Lesbians”, where the lyrics “Tripping my face off since breakfast” may not be the words you would associate with someone of Stephens’ age!

Credit has to be given to Stephen Malkmus, and indeed The Jicks, for creating an album which will certainly stand up against his back catalogue. Indeed, I would imagine that it will attract a whole host of new fans who will not even be aware of his past. It carries off the neat trick of being both totally contemporary but also throwing in some musical hints and lyrics which will raise a smile amongst the more mature fan. The album provides a perfect blend of up beat, single friendly, songs with those which are more deeper and reflective, so it always retains the listeners’ interest. It is certainly setting a high bench mark for any future releases in 2014 to match.

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