Now equalling Pavement's 5 studio albums, the esteemed Mr Malkmus has given us the straightforward pop of his debut, the hoary prog of Pig Lib, the synthy mucking about of Face the Truth, and the even hoarier prog of Real Emotional Trash. So it was with some relief I read he's currently 'burned out' on the jamming and back to in my mind what he does best; sharp, oblique weirdly hummable songs. And this albums got stacks of 'em. From the opening rush of Tigers, complete with standard SM wig out coda to the awesome guitar line and melancholy vim of Stick Figures In Love, to the hushed, sexy vocals on No One Is, there is no straining for effect or self-conscious weirdness just an intuitive display of the odd pop in which SM made his name. Just a shame there's no rap two hander with Mr Hansen!
During the recording of Mirror Traffic, his fifth album with The Jicks, Stephen Malkmus split his time time between this and the successful Pavement reunion tour. That may have been a fragmented way to record an album, but it doesn't show on the final product; this is a polished, complete and competent album.
The only comparison that can be drawn between this and previous albums is diversity: Tracks on the album vary greatly in length, tone and style, there are rollicking indie rock tunes like `Senator', which is sandwiched between the acoustic dominated `No One Is (As I Are Be) and the low-tempo `Brain Gallop'.
There are still some oddball tracks here though: clocking in at one minute and twenty three seconds, `Junglegloss' sounds like it came from Pavement's most eclectic album, the divisive `Wowee Zowee', but there's not much else on the album that can be criticised. The album was produced by Beck, not that most people will be able to recognise this, as Beck has said that he prefers taking a minimalist approach when it comes to production: "There's a perception that if an artist produces another artist, they're going to imprint on them. But I'm the opposite. I want to hear that artist; I don't want to hear me-- that's the last thing I want to hear".
`Mirror Traffic' can be summed up as a solid and enjoyable indie rock album: fans who are still upset that Pavement will probably not be getting back together again; never mind recording a new album, shouldn't be too upset, because this album proves that The Jicks are just as capable as Pavement, and are hopefully here to stay.
What a brilliant album for fans of witty and inventive songwriting. Highlights for me were Senator - first heard a radio friendly version on 6music (and the reason I bought the album) and Tigers which I knew I'd heard somewhere before. Stick Figures in Love is fuzzy guitar heaven, you'll be humming it all day. I've been listening to this again and again since I bought it. Buy two - one for you, one for a mate.
Stephen Malkmus does it again. Unlike maybe any of his peers who hit success in the early 90s, Malkmus has kept up the standard of his output. After his previous album, the impressive Real Emotional Trash,I wasn't really expecting anything quite so good. Like manu great albums, Mirror Traffic doesn't hit you between the eyes, but worms its way into your soul. The song-writing here is witty, clever and cool and the playing, especially Malkmus's guitar, is inspired. Malkmus just gets better and better.