Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Wig Out at Jagbags
God bless Stephen Malkmus (and, of course, his band The Jicks). While other ‘90s indie survivors have reinvented themselves to fit in with more conventional genres, Malkmus’ writing has remained delightfully quirky and clever. Even the title, Wig Out at Jagbags, is a clue that this is not going to be your mainstream guitar rock.
Of course, Wig Out is wonderfully melodic and catchy. There’s a purity in the instrumentation here that’s to be admired when so many bands go for bigger and more embellished. Malkmus remains a proud voice for the slightly strange boys in band t-shirts and jeans, and his turns of phrase prove why he’s had this lasting power since the disbanding of Pavement. “We lived on Tennyson and venison and The Grateful Dead/It was Mudhoney summer, Torch of Mystics, double bummer,” he sings on “Lariat,” a song all about nostalgia from someone who is part of the legacy. Also part of that theme is “Rumble at the Rainbo,” which contains lyrics like“Remember the thrill and the rush?/You’re not out of touch.”
But of course not everything is about being an indie elder statesman. “J Smoov” is seductively quiet with horn embellishment that takes the track to surprisingly sexy territory. The brief “Scattegories” wins a place in my heart for its freestyle word associations, mainly playing on the names of board games, paired with effortless guitar riffs. Wig Out is smart music disguising itself as casual, and it works brilliantly.