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Stephen Malkmus | The Jicks | Pig Lib | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Pig Lib (Matador)
by Tim Den
Stephen Malkmus isn't just the Master of Irony, he's the living embodiment of it. Who else would be crowned the King of Slackers, only to become a spit-shined guitar professional in years to come? Who else would lead a genre-defining group for a decade, only to release his best material after said group's demise?
Believe it or not, folks, little Malky is all grown up. He's become the epitome of what his former band railed against: all-powerful guitarist, emotive vocalist, popsmith extraordinaire, and the force behind a tight/multi-dynamic band. And if you don't like it, then you're the kind of person who prefers Ramen noodles over gourmet meals. Pig Lib is Malkmus (& his very capable bandmates, The Jicks) finally achieving full-potential. Sounding effortlessly graceful in sunshine-y strolls ("Vanessa From Queens"), psychedelic rock ("Sheets"), quirky-folk (["Do Not Feed the] Oyster," "Ramp of Death"), and angular kraut-rock ("Dark Wave"), Pig Lib is every one of Pavement's growing-pains-experimental songs blossoming into a field of colors. Everything in its right place, anchored by a rhythm section that seems capable of handling anything, not to mention lead by Malkmus' own jaw-dropping guitar work. It's as if Pavement took ten years to set up a joke whose punchline wasn't delivered until now. The fleshed-out imagination, execution, and preparation that Pig Lib displays is simply staggering. This is the album that answers the question "What was Pavement really trying to say all those years?"
And it's all summed up in the album's highlight, an almost-10 minute indie-prog (!?) orgasmic whirlwind called "1% of One." As Malkmus' tricky guitar work figureskates with his vocal melody, the time signature jerks catchiness into a corner and fucks 'em in all sorts of weird positions. "No, I couldn't possibly be knodding along to that reversed beat!" But you are. "But... how? How are they turning a 10 minute build - blazing solos and all - into an exceleration not unlike that of a speeding car? The gears shift from two to three, from three to four, from four to five... oh sweet lord! I need a new pair of drawers!"
Chase that with "Witch Mountain Bridge" - an equally Jethro Tull-meets-CCR romp of flighty fingers - and Stephen Malkmus is poised to become the next classic rock guitar hero. Except this guy not only plays his ass off in off-times, he writes novels out of songs, indie-fies Medieval chord progressions, is in a band with a gorgeous bass player (recent Boston mid-show scream from fan: "god is a woman and she plays the bass!"), and turns what-would've-been-wankery-bullshit-in-other-people's-hands into radiant songs. Stephen, we hardly knew ye.
(625 Broadway New York, NY 10012)