Album Review: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - 'Mirror Traffic'
Daddy Slacker’s back to teach ’em how it’s (un)done
Be gone ye badly-dressed oiks with wacky hair, relocating to east London in the misguided hope of living your post-[a]Pavement[/a] fantasies in sub-par slacker bands with zero intent. In what can only be a blessing from the indie gods, [a]Stephen Malkmus[/a] – the man who once defied any NME reader to think of a word that rhymed with [a]Pavement[/a] and then chastised the poor kid who wrote to the Letters pages with ‘enslavement’ – is back to show you all how it’s actually done.
Malkmus may have put the kibosh on new material from his former band following their live reunion, opting instead to embark on this Beck-produced album with [a]The Jicks[/a], but ‘[b]Tigers[/b]’, the lead single, bears more than a passing resemblance to the alma mater that made Malkmus such a revered figure. It’s certainly not the only track on ‘[b]Mirror Traffic[/b]’ that possesses those trademark guitars and Malkmus’ satisfyingly nonsensical lyrical delights.
‘[b]Senator[/b]’ may be abrasive and crude in its directness, as Malkmus so tastefully claims that “[i]what the Senator wants is a blowjob[/i]”; nonetheless, it channels the quirkiness that made [a]Pavement[/a] so itchily adorable. But there’s a gentler side to Malkmus & The Jicks that is glimpsed here, amid the warmth of ‘[b]Share The Red[/b]’ and the melancholia of the country-tinged ‘[b]No One (Is As I Are Be)[/b]’.
On the fleeting instrumental ‘[b]Jumblegloss[/b]’, The Jicks conjure woozy psychedelia, while ‘[b]Asking Price[/b]’ rests thoughtfully among the album’s more animated tracks, such as the Bowie-esque ‘[b]Tune Grief[/b]’ or the politically incorrigible ‘[b]Spazz[/b]’, which presses into service a super-charged army of guitars. Eschewing the slacker blueprint he practically invented for off-kilter pop tracks, Malkmus has shown that he’s not defined by his past. Surely now it’s time for those hot young thangs out there to cast off their shackles too.