Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags
Stephen Malkmus's 6th Solo Album Shows He Can Still Rock Out, But Not Too Hard

It’s pretty hard to divorce Stephen Malkmus from his legendary indie rock band of the 90s Pavement, even if his 14 years with the Jicks now outstrips Pavement’s decade of existence. While Stephen Malkmus wanted his post-Pavement project to simply be released as “The Jicks,” record label Matador insisted he attach his name to the project. While the band will therefore always have the recognition benefit of being associated with Pavement, it has no doubt caused Malkmus to stress that his solo project is not Pavement and that Pavement is no more. Granted, his solo project is not a complete reversal of Pavement’s sound and style (no Malkmus Goes Metal), but it does have a much higher production quality than Pavment’s trademark lo-fi of the 90s. I’d comment more on past Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks albums, but truthfully the extent of my knowledge is limited to a few listens of 2008’s Real Emotional Trash. Essentially, I’m a Pavement fan that was more or less out of the loop for 14 years.

Wig Out at Jagbags turned out to be a pretty good album to get me back into the loop. I may not be rushing to acquire every Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album this instant, but as a whole, it’s an enjoyable listen. The songs are fairly straightforward indie rock, with the occasional guitar solo and jazz influence that give it a slight classic rock tinge. Some tracks are faster and higher-energy (“Planetary Motion,” “Shibboleth” and “Surreal Teenagers”), whereas others are borderline ballads (“J Smoov” in particular has a lounge feel ). While I could do some sort of Pavement comparison for each track, truthfully only the 90s-style “Shibboleth” sounds like it could have come from Malkmus’s earlier catalogue. For the remainder of the album, the only possible connection are Malkmus’s half-spoken vocals, which continue to be filled with light-hearted and usually perplexing lyrics. For example, the track “Cinnamon & Lesbians” begins with “Shanghaied in Oregon, Cinnamon and Lesbians,” and doesn’t make any more apparent sense after that. There is a common theme to some songs though, and that is aging. Malkmus is now 47, and the song “Rumble at the Rainbo” seems to take on this subject directly with lines like “Come and join us in this punk rock tomb, come slam dancing with some ancient dudes” and “no one here has changed and no one ever will.” Even songs like the very catchy “Lariat” declares that Malkmus grew up influenced by the 80s and on “Independence Street” he quips “I don’t have the teeth left for your candy.” If he’s an older rocker now, at least it’s easy to tell he’s still having fun with it.

There’s no glaringly negative points on Wig Out at Jagbags, although I truthfully didn’t find any extraordinary moments on it either after repeated listens. Even as an introduction to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, this album comes off like a safe play - one that does not push boundaries too far at the expense of being slightly forgettable in parts. I remember when I saw that Pitchfork had reviewed the album, I thought “wonder what they gave it. I feel like it’s a 7/10 on the number scale.” Sure enough, it got that exact score. As I stated previously, the album is enjoyable and does make me want to listen to more of Stephen Malkmus’s solo work. Only it’s more of a “I might get more of his stuff the next time I go on an album buying spree” than a “I need to complete his discography right now” desire.

Grade: B+
Tags: stephen malkmus, jicks, wig out at jagbags
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