As an indie paragon for something over a decade, it's perhaps inevitable that Stephen Malkmus should want to make something more substantially, classically rock sooner or later. Pig Lib
, his second solo album, is the logical extension of those moments when Pavement
cautiously approached the grandiose rock canon, albeit from an oblique angle. Initially, it can be a little hard-going. Where Malkmus's self-titled debut
accentuated his flirtatious, pop-friendly inclinations, Pig Lib
is gnarlier and more expansive. At times, it feels uncharacteristically earnest, as if Malkmus were trying to defuse those usual jibes of archness with a sustained bout of jamming.
Persevere, though, and Pig Lib graciously reveals its excellence. The two most obvious influences on spindly, febrile epics like "1% of One" and "Witch Mountain Bridge" are Television and Fairport Convention and Malkmus is particularly good at highlighting the affinities between New York artpunk and British folk-rock through his notably improved guitar playing. Less rockist souls, meanwhile, will be heartened by evidence of his continuing Ray Davies fetish on "Vanessa from Queens" and, especially, the "Waterloo Sunset" styled "Craw Song". But this is an album that demands to be lived with, nurtured and have attention lavished upon it for it to amply repay the kindness. Another classic, eventually, in Malkmus's remarkably trash-free catalogue. --John Mulvey
Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib