Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Mirror Traffic (Domino)
September 6, 2011 by Laurence Gardner
Malkmus and his Jicks return with this, their fifth studio album in ten years (or fourth, or third depending on how you view the self titled ‘Stephen Malkmus” or ‘Face The Truth’) and the first album to be produced by the talented Beck, and with every post Pavement release by Malkmus, the arising perpetual question that will always arise is “Is it much like Pavement? Well yes and no. And with last years Pavement shows now a distant memory, it’s another reminder of Malkmus’s genius.
The album kicks off with ‘Tigers’ which doesn’t divert too far from the standard Jicks sound, before leading into ‘No One Is (As I Are be)’ where Becks influence shines most clear, with its slide guitar and xylophones reminiscent of ‘Odelay’s’ calmer moments, and with the rest of the album following in similar vein, like the 5 minute ‘Long Hard Book’ which drifts along on gentle guitar picking, and the beautifully relaxed ‘Fall Away,’ replacing the 10-minute epic guitar workouts of 2008’s ‘Real Emotional Trash.’
Though initial expectation for the album may have been misleading with the far from radio friendly lead single ‘Senator’ with it’s guitars and drums bursting over crude chorus of “I know what the Senator wants, what the Senator wants is a blowjob.” Before ending in a standard Malkmus guitar work out, whilst album tracks such as the frantic ‘Spazz’ is the nearest to a Pavement song Malkmus has written in his career fronting the Jicks, with its sudden bursts of changing shambolic tempo, and skewed questions of “Someone’s giving French kiss lessons, how else will we learn to love?
Whilst album highlights stand out in the form of the delightful ‘Brain Gallop’ with its soft organ sounds backing Malkmus’s trademark lyrics and guitar playing before leading into the brief but otherworldly instrumental of ‘Jumblegloss.’
Whilst anything Malkmus releases in the wake of last years Pavement shows will undoubtedly be compared to his old band, Mirror Traffic shows a Malkmus grown since Pavements initial dissolution, with an album more laid back and bristling with ideas, but that still offers plenty to love for fans of Malkmus’s back catalogue.