Former Pavement frontman unloads solid, unspectacular solo album
Stephen Malkmus, former lead singer and guitarist of Pavement, is at it again with his new album “Wig Out At Jagbags.” Frequently cited as one of the most influential indie bands of the ‘90s, Pavement was formed by three University graduates in the early 1990s and went on to release five incredible albums. Since Pavement’s disbandment in 1999, Malkmus has released six albums with his solo vessel, The Jicks. Though Malkmus’ work with The Jicks sounds quite different than the sound found on his noise-laden lo-fi Pavement masterpieces “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” Malkmus has consistently been able to churn out indie-rock gems without the rest of Pavement.
“Wig Out at Jagbags” kicks off immediately with a fuzzy, relentless groove on “Planetary Motion.” Layered, harmonizing guitars weave in and out of each other in overlapping solos, creating a psychedelic jam that lives up to Malkmus’ sparkling reputation in the indie rock community. Every song has a perfect balance of distortion and sweet harmony.
The album is filled with catchy pop tunes paired with Malkmus’ distinct sardonic voice, trippy psychedelic jams and horn sections. Many of the songs seem like they could have been recorded on later Pavement albums like “Terror Twilight,” but still have a distinctly different taste than the typical Pavement sound. As soon as one of his tracks gets a tiny bit monotonous or boring, he adds an attention-grabbing turn or riff to jerk the listener back into a state of musical bliss. His sarcastic but sharp lyrics make clever puns about punk rock on “Rumble at the Rainbo.”
But even as each songs hits the perfect mix of catchy and interesting to listen to, they are nowhere near as innovative or groundbreaking as his work with Pavement. No, what makes this album stand out from the rest of the indie-pop jargon around these days is Malkmus’ witty lyricism and urge to always add some weird twist to his songs.
As different as Malkmus is, however, he and listeners alike realize he’ll never change the music landscape. But, then again, why change something that works?