Saturday, May 19, 2018

Slanted and enchanting

Whatever Stephen Malkmus does, he's likely to be most fondly remembered as the frontman for Pavement - but it's worth reflecting that Sparkle Hard is his seventh solo effort (well, backed by The Jicks) whereas Pavement only released five studio albums.

To mark the release of the new LP, Rolling Stone invited Malkmus to "look back on a quarter-century of indie-rock genius" through the prism of 15 songs. Two-thirds of his picks are taken from Pavement records, including classics 'Summer Babe', 'Silence Kit', 'We Dance', 'Stereo' and 'Carrot Rope'. I've always found his lyrics to be wonderfully memorable but the overall meanings of the songs to be unfathomably obscure, so it's interesting to hear him talk about their subject matter.

Most fascinating of all, however, are his comments on his fourth Jicks record, Real Emotional Trash, which is represented by the selection of 'Elmo Delmo': "We had a new drummer, Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, and she had in her mind that we were going to be a hard-rocking band and push each other to new heights of psychedelic expression. She's a very ambitious person, and I was very lucky to get to make some albums with her and tour with her. ... I loved it, but it was also like, how much more do we need of that, after we did it? It kind of exhausted me."

This makes it sound as though Weiss (whose drumming I love) bullied him into taking things in a direction he didn't really want to go. If so, that's rather a shame. For my money, Real Emotional Trash does indeed suggest a band "pushing each other to new heights of psychedelic expression" and as such it stands out from all of his other records (including those with Pavement) as the absolute best.

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