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When I saw Stephen Malkmus had a new album out I have to admit, I let out a slight giggle. I just looked at the title and thought - ah he’ll be dicking about again, over egging the guitar solo pudding and generally adding a little more tarnish to his slowly growing back catalogue. Yet when we played the record in the office this morning I enjoyed every second of it and was almost inconsolable when it ended.
Yes opener ‘Planetary Motion’ has all the 70’s rock moves you may expect and just falls slightly short of what you may expect and yes there’s the slight whiff of slacker dad throughout but songs such as ‘The Janitor Revealed’ are guaranteed to appeal to ALL fans of his later Pavement work, melodically lopsided it glides along with one of those unusual laid back melodies he comes up with from time to time. Similarly ‘Lariat’ gets by on killer melody and a nice shortage of rock-isms. Its purely perfect laid back post Pavement fun, all lazily strummed acoustics, warm rhodes piano’s, tumbling drums and funny smart lyrics that seem to be both honed carefully and wildly off the cuff.
‘Houston Hades’ veers into that slightly smooth 70’s thing he has going yet with some slightly daft vocal hollers while ‘Shibboleth’ does the opposite, re-gurgitating some Fall or Pixies bassline or other for a brisk, taut piece of rock music that lurches into what would be a sort of singalong pop chorus albeit one that sounds like the band are playing whilst drunk on a particularly choppy North Sea crossing. Malkmus voice is really smooth here without any of the strained bits that sometimes here where he starts croaking beyond his range.
This more hushed style suits slower tracks like the Lambchop-ish ‘J Smoove’ with its 70’s soul horn inflections and dusty atmospheres. I could go on, but lets bring the whole thing to an end by saying that this is a really enjoyable album. Malkmus is another musician who has somehow found himself in Berlin, yet this album perfectly encapsulates his Californian roots, laid back, fun, funny, surprisingly direct direct flannel shirted guitar pop goodness.
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