Thursday, August 4, 2016

Album Review: Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus' first solo album post-Pavement came out in 2001.  Unlike the final Pavement album which had quite a uniform sound, this album is kind of all over the shop.  It opens with the Stones-y rocker Black Book, which sounds a little odd coming from the mouth of Malkmus, as he sw(J)aggers "the black book you took was permanent-ally diversified", but that's every bit as clumsy as that sounds.  He tries similar posturing later with The Hook, but the results are much the same.  Too many songs like Phantasies, Jo Jo's Jacket and Troubbble breeze by in a kind of throwaway manner.  Much better is Church On White which features some glorious guitar work in the spirit of Tom Verlaine.  It's an absolutely splendid guitar workout, but it's not really helped by being surrounded by some of Malkmus' more mediocre material.

Discretion Grove and the lazy drawl of Trojan Curfew evoke his former band in great fashion, featuring yet more soaring guitar and catchy melodies.  The sunny, acoustic picking of Pink India sounds graceful and carefree, before building to a swaggering rocker, but this one suits Malkmus way better than Black Book or The Hook.  Jenny and the Ess Dog is quite tuneful if you can ignore its obvious similarity to Elliott Smith's Say Yes, while closing track Deado has a somewhat regretful tone, finishing the album on a downbeat note.

So if you're prepared to work with this album, albeit it's a seriously backloaded one, it does actually pay off.