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Underwhelming tossed off album from the 90's slacker god-head.......
on 1 February 2014
On a first listen I thought, "Christ, Malkmus isn't even pretending to try on this one". On repeat listening things aren't quite as bad as that first impression but not much better, I'd say this might well be the worst solo/Jicks album Malkmus has come up with yet simply because it feels so tossed off with the usual self-conscious, mannered, smart alec-y lyrics (which I've always had issues with since they reek of smug superiority to me) but instead of the usual compensations for his lyrical misadventures [ie. strong tunes] Malkmus hasn't come up with much in the way of memorable music (melodies, riffs, guitar solos, arrangements, etc). I know quite a few reviewers had issues with the Beck produced "Mirror Traffic" but that was a near masterpiece compared to this. All bar two songs are less than 5-minutes with only the occasional flashes of Malkmus' brilliant psych/prog/post-punk/alternarock hybrid guitar playing and he hasn't filled this (huge) gap with memorable tunes to compensate with everything sounding so...... generic yet somehow also half-formed. There are admittedly a trio of strong songs ('Lariat', 'Cinnamon & Lesbians' & 'Shibboleth') but not nearly enough and these are offset by some real clunkers ('Rumble At The Rainbo' [my God this one irks me in it's assumed 'cleverness'], 'Chartjunk' with its sloppy horn arrangement; Van Morrison it certainly ain't, and the Pavement by-numbers 'Scattegories' and the less said about the banal 'Surreal Teenagers' the better).
Malkmus has recently relocated to Berlin, perhaps this has contributed to a loss of direction? I don't know what it is but I reckon the large amount of good-will accumulated from his Pavement days that he has been trading on for over a decade now will rapidly diminish if he doesn't regain his focus, especially after the cynical cash-grab Pavement live reformation of a few years ago (where it was clear Malkmus' heart wasn't in it). One or two more albums like this half-hearted effort and I think that will be it for his solo career (which will prompt another Pavement reformation no doubt..... sigh).