Since the demise of ”Pavement” in the year 2000 Stephen Malkmus hasn’t sat around resting on his laurels, he’s kept himself busy. Not only has he created three excellent albums but he also managed to find time to contribute the largest and lets face it most Dylan-esque sounding portion of the “I’m Not There” soundtrack. This year sees the release of his fourth album with “The Jicks”. I suppose technically it’s the third “Jicks” effort as his 2005 album “Face The Truth” was listed as a Solo album although it still contained heavy instrumentation by “The Jicks” members.
I have to admit that this album really made me think, I couldn’t quite decide whither it was self-indulgent and too jam laden (I have this dilemma with most of his work) or another exceptional piece of Malkmus penned genius. After many, many listens the pieces started to fall into place and there is no doubt in my mind that “Real Emotional Trash” is the later. Album opener “Dragonfly Pie” highlights perfectly why this record isn’t an instant carnival to the ear on the first listen. You hear the spiralling distorted guitar and looping keys surrounding Malkmus’ sometimes strained, sometimes ethereal vocals and it sounds cumbersome and difficult at points but still there’s something in it that’s devilishly appealing.
“Cold Son” rolls along and builds beautifully before relapsing into a gorgeous chorus and also contains the somewhat humorous line “Who was it that said the world was my oyster? I feel like a nympho stuck in a cloister”. Managing to be funny and rhyme oyster is a talent indeed, the only other word I could come up with was “moister” which might be a little bit wrong. Title track “Real Emotional Trash” is a twisting ten-minute epic Malkmus masterpiece. The banging building drums provided by ex “Sleater Kinney” drummer Janet Weiss along with the layered guitar when combined with Stephen’s unmistakable vocals ensure that the songs pop sensibilities are maintained despite its length.
On “Out of Reaches” there is something soothing about the guitar as it wails and whines it’s way through to the solo gaining more and more feedback and distortion. Malkmus’ ability to produce the quirky yet endearing is given another platform to shine on “Baltimore” which has a really interesting piano and guitar duel at around three minutes. Then like many of the other songs on the album careers off into a two and a half-minute instrumental jam that just makes you salivate in anticipation of witnessing it live. “We Can’t Help You” is the second shortest song on the record at 3.04 and benefits from it’s short sharp run time. It’s brimming with keys and finds Malkmus’ voice at it’s most relaxed and dream inducing, backed by beautiful soft “la la la’s” it screams of summer and eludes to Malkmus’ love of Bob Dylan.
The album is definitely real and emotional at parts but no one could dare to call any of what’s contained on its 55 minutes trash. My advice is get a copy, listen to it on repeat and let its subtle brilliance seep into your bones.