Stephen Malkmus: London Highbury Garage

No appearance from Justine, but Malkmus still charms on his own...

The handcuffs that adorned his mic stand at Pavement’s last British gig are gone. After ten years as leader of the Volvo driving gentlemen prankster alt-rockers, Sun Valley, Idaho’s most laconic resident Stephen Malkmus unceremoniously split the band (leaving certain members a little hurt and pissed off) and returns to the low key Garage tonight to play material from new album ‘Stephen Malkmus’ with, as Frank Black might have it, some friends. Rumoured new line up was to include Elastica’s Justine Frischmann. But apparently she’s holidaying in the Seychelles.

After the last two Pavement albums ‘Brighten The Corners’ and ‘Terror Twilight’, which shared brilliance with listlessness in almost equal measures, tonight’s set is a choppy and familiarly jaunty and humorous return to clever-clogs alt-rock form. ‘Pink India’ is a boys own adventure story complete with references to large G+Ts, while the shunting and ringing ‘Vague Space’, along with the odd Fairport Convention cover, shows that Malkmus’ solo incarnation has lost none of the jaunty jocularity of his previous band.

Skulking on the side of stage left for most of the show under his massive flop of hair, possibly still hesitant of the limelight, he’s still the master of the sound and style he invented. And still doing it all with a grin on his face.

Neil Thomson