CD Review of Real Emotional Trash by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Recommended if you like
Pavement, Sonic Youth,
Guided by Voices
Label
Matador
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks:
Real Emotional Trash

Reviewed by Jim Washington

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J
oining alt-rock legends like Bob Mould and Dinosaur Jr., Stephen Malkmus has come back to unload some of his Real Emotional Trash.

Actually, the former Pavement frontman’s fourth solo album, with a slew of titles like something out of a line of children’s books (“Dragonfly Pie,” “Hopscotch Willie,” “Elmo Delmo,” “Wicked Wanda”), doesn’t reveal much of anything about the guy behind it. And why should we expect anything else? Over the course of five albums in the ’90s, Pavement became heroes of the lo-fi indie rock movement – and they did it with bursts of feedback, noise, and shambling song structures, not telling lyrics.

After Pavement finished running its course in 1999, Malkmus launched a solo career with the Jicks, a group of indie rockers in his hometown of Portland. A lot of fans thought Terror Twilight, Pavement’s swan song, sounded an awful lot like a Malkmus solo disc, but the official debut was self-titled, a fun departure from his former band’s sound. He followed that with Pig Lib, a darker work that still indulged his psychedelic side, and then lightened up again on Face the Truth. The credits on those albums went back and forth as well, between just Stephen Malkmus and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

So where is he on this disc? In a pretty good place. Famously a father of two now, and with a rejiggered Jicks that includes former Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, Malkmus has created a sprawling but hard-driving album that sounds more like a band and less like a guy tinkering in his basement. It combines jammy guitar epics such as the 10-minute title track and the mournful and noisy “Baltimore” (the type of songs Malkmus has described as “triple part saga acid mind blowers”) with fun pop songs like “Gardenia,” a charmer complete with “ba ba bad dada” chorus.

A few funny phrases pop out here and there, like this gem: “The world is my oyster, but I feel like a nympho stuck in a cloister” – but for the most part it’s anyone’s guess what Malkmus is talking about on these songs. The joy of this album is just living with it for awhile, and reveling in the long psychedelic guitar freakouts and the shorter bursts of noise for what they are -- the righteous second act of another indie rock god -- and wondering what will come next.

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