Steven Malkmus & the Jicks - The Paradise, Boston, May 16th 2003
As an avid fan and 40% gay man, I might not be the best person to review a Stephen Malkmus show. If you ask me, the Malkman is a genius. His work with Pavement established that band as the clear heroes of a genre. They were intelligent punk, great song-writing with a legitimately raw edge. Although the music got more refined with each subsequent release, the edge didn’t dull, but rather the band seemed to get smarter.
Now Pavement was not entirely original, they certainly had their influences in both the punk and rock worlds. But they were able to create a unique sound that set them apart in the world of rock with bands like the Talking Heads and the Velvet Underground before them.
After the band broke-up, Malkmus’s first solo effort was a clear change from his previous work with Pavement. It seemed that by ditching not just the band, but the name as well, he was looking for an opportunity to do something a bit looser, without some of the typical expectations that came with Pavement. And although the first album was definitely a bit more pop than his previous work, the infamous Malkmus hooks were all still there.
His latest effort strikes me as the first real break in a fairly continuous progression of work. The album seems almost random, with quick two-minute punk/new wave ditties, followed by long jams, and a good number of mellow pop songs reminiscent of 80’s era Grateful Dead. Although great at times, the album is too often inconsistent.
The gripes I have with last Friday’s show are the same gripes I have with the new album. Actually, the first gripe was unrelated to Malkmus …the opening band sucked noodles. And then the Jicks came out. Although it started great, led off by ‘Sin Taxi’ (one of the coolest songs from the first studio session for the Jicks), songs that followed, such as ‘Vanessa from Queens’ and ‘Animal Midnight’, sounded uninspired at best. These are the songs that make the die-hard Pavement fan’s stomach churn. In particular, the song ‘Us’ (which began the encore) is a painfully average song in which the band sounds like they are laboring along just to finish.
As a whole, however, I did really enjoy the show. ‘Witch Mountain Bridge’ is one cool ass song, and ‘One Percent of One’ always manages to get stuck in my head for days after hearing it. Not to mention that the ‘Paradise’ was easily one of the coolest venues I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and I got to watch the hottest Pavement chick making out throughout the entire show … which reminded me of the olden days when I used to make out with chicks. But I digress.