Stephen Malkmus: Osaka Club Quattro

Malkmus is still a charmer as he takes his solo album to Japan...

As he ambles onto stage asking where his guitar has got to, Stephen Malkmus looks anything but one of America’s most important and original performers of the past decade. In fact, while he’s

disentangling himself from his guitar leads and light-heartedly complaining

that, “it’s like working in a Russian spaghetti factory,” you’d be forgiven for thinking this loose approach couldn’t possibly produce much worth listening to.

Once he starts to play however, nobody is left in any doubt as to the brilliance of Malkmus’s song-writing ability. Discriminating use of his considerable guitar prowess prevents any of the songs being overwhelmed but allows altered live versions of album tracks to grow extra teeth. ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ manages to capture Yul Brynner’s [I]je ne sais quoi[/I] and meld it to a climactic crescendo of noise that would have the bald one smiling in his grave. ‘Discretion Grove’ grooves with an indie pop hook and rhythmic instrumental undercurrent that lesser lights would kill for.

The affably quirky guitarist even confidently parodies the uber-serious
Radiohead by covering ‘Creep’. Thom Yorke’s unbearable angst is replaced by Malkmus‘ relaxed resignation to the line, [I]”I’m a creep”[/I].

Encouragingly, new songs appear at regular intervals with the yet-to-be-released guitar monster ‘One Percent’ closing out the set in striking fashion. How much does it differ from a Pavement gig? Well, backing band, The Jicks are certainly cut from

the same peculiar cloth as their predecessors. Case in point, Heather Larimer is even introduced as Pavement nutter “Bob Nastanovich 2001”. And tonight’s showing suggests that with time, the back catalogue of songs should be nearly as good: those mourning the loss of Pavement will find some excellent consolation here.

At times shambolic, always at ease and rarely short of absorbing, Stephen Malkmus continues to invent music and stories that those too few folk in the know can muse over and smile along to.

Bryan Scruby