Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks pay no heed to trends. Whilst in the past year or so the music community has been dazzled and distracted by sequencers, samples, and synths, on Wig Out At Jagbags Malkmus and the Jicks rock and roll in all their glorious and essential imperfections.
If you are no stranger to Pavement and Malkmus, then you will revel in this new album, which fits neatly and seamlessly into one of the most consistent and enjoyable discographies of any living musician. If you have yet to be acquainted with the man’s strange and brilliant brand of guitar-driven melody-laden music, then this album offers as good an introduction as any to his œuvre.
From track one there is a noticeable change in production from 2011’s Beck-produced Mirror Traffic. Where that album was often dry and raw, creaking under the sheer weight of the hooks it struggled to contain, here, from the opener ‘Planetary Motion’ and onwards, there is a spacious airiness which very quickly makes room for some welcome shambolic soloing. And the music gets better and better from hereon in. Every tune is effortlessly catchy, and texturally diverse.
Among the instruments fiddled with appear to be organs and, in a genius and risky move which could’ve gone badly wrong, trumpets (!), which are used most effectively on the song ‘J Smoov’ – a definite contender for best track, and a pretty departure from the contained chaos we have come to expect from the band. Malkmus’ voice sounds great, which highlights his trademark loopy lyrics and stuttered vocal phrasing, which encompass a loose theme of nostalgia and music fandom. On the band’s website Malkmus even cites his old band Pavement, among many other disparate things, as an influence on the album.
Looking back at Pavement’s output, I’d say this album has the dynamic range and scope of the weird and wonderful Wowee Zowee, with its soft acoustic songs and abrasive freakout moments. The whole punk thing of proudly displaying and paying dues to your influences is summed up in the line from the song ‘Lariat’: “We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead”, in which song he goes on to sing, “We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever.” He pays tribute not only to the bands that have formed his musical outlook, but also to the constant debates between any serious music fans ever, debates which this album, and this band, will continue to fuel.