And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Real Emotional Trash

If I could write music the way Stephen Malkmus does,
in his raw, original and multi-faceted form, I would.
The problem is I don’t have the musical abyss of a mind
that he does…and I wasn’t a History major in school.
For many, the first time they heard a Pavement or
Stephen Malkmus track was most likely a traumatic
experience. I can vividly recall the first time I heard
the song ‘Cut Your Hair’ by Pavement from the Crooked
Rain, Crooked Rain album. I wincingly thought the song
was weird and was annoyed by Stephen’s songwriting
style and chaotic, ad-lib vocalizing. Unfortunately for
me, ‘Cut Your Hair’ sounded nothing like the rest of
the album, or any other Pavement song and was, in
fact, their closest brush with the mainstream. Oddly
enough, something changed in my heart along the
way and today I celebrate Stephen Malkmus’ entire
catalogue, both with and without Pavement.

In the truest sense of the term, Stephen Malkmus is a
freestyle musician who transcends borders, categories,
boundaries and demographics in order to convey the
weirdness and simplicity of his art. His newest release
‘Real Emotional Trash’ is no exception to that rule. As
Stephen’s fourth major solo release since the demolition
of Pavement (with his band The Jicks), the album
conveys the tensions and oddities that Stephen holds
dear within his own strange and fragmented world.
‘Dragonfly Pie’ opens with an attitudinal guitar riff that
sounds like it could be the main lick of an early Mudhoney
song, coming out of a blown amp. The lyrical theme
overrides the musical burn as Malkmus echoes the
deep realization of the refrain over and over:
‘Can’t be what you want to be /
Gotta be what your oughtta be’.

‘Cold Son’ is the first single off the album and nicely
displays Malkmus’ simple poppy side and penchant
for wordplay. The album title track ‘Real Emotional
Trash’ is an incredible 10 minute powerhouse of
augmented lyricism that focuses on Stephen’s salt
of the earth people adoration (‘Point me in the direction
of your real emotional trash’). The song features
everything from SM’s signature clean electric picking
to Piano to 70’s organ tones and changes tempo
three or four times.

Make no mistake – Stephen Malkmus is a
de-constructionist. This can be clearly viewed on
the well-crafted track ‘We Can’t Help You’ that
actually pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the
post-modern ideal:
‘There’s no common goal / There’s no moral action
There’s no modern age in which to run away
There’s no grace and love / without no projection
There’s no sky above for you to cry into
We can’t help you.’

It’s obvious that I’m a little biased here but being a
listener and a fan of SM for over 13 years, it’s
understandable to me that the common palate does
not jibe well with his musical and lyrical flavour. In
fact, his song-writing is often so slob-rocky and choppy
that it can sound amateur-ish when compared to the
sleek, shrink-wrapped musical markets of today.
Fortunately, SM has it where it counts and doesn’t
really care about his lack of radio play. He has an
adoring listener base that spans across many
generations and musical demographics. He has been
pegged (although Stephen himself denies it) as
possibly the pioneer of the ‘indie’ movement. He is
so well respected and known within the music industry,
in fact, that his voice can be currently heard as Cate
Blanchett’s singing voice in the new Todd Haynes film
about Bob Dylan entitled ‘I’m Not There’.

For an original musical ride and nice intro to the work
of Stephen Malkmus, I would suggest you pick up
‘Real Emotional Trash’ (and the ITunes version comes
with a bonus track) and then work your way backwards,
deep into the catacombs of his collection.


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