Pavement fans may be disappointed that the group’s recent reunion didn’t result in a new album, but Stephen Malkmus’ latest release with the Jicks is almost certain to surprise and delight. It seems as though revisiting his old, now classic material has revitalized his writing. That isn’t to say its similarities to the glory days of old resulted directly from Pavement’s reunion—in fact, the Jicks entered the studio for this record even before the indie rock pioneers’ 2010 world tour—but it pointed more towards Malkmus’ readiness to reconcile with his past.
So with Mirror Traffic it’s back to basics, avoiding some of the pitfalls of the past few Jicks albums, namely refraining from over extending a jam and instead bringing Malkmus’ ever catchy melodies and intriguing lyrics to the foreground with clean production.
“Tigers” is a great, short opener with an excellent lead riff and some slide guitar flourishes. “No One Is (As I Are Be)” is the oddly titled second track that wouldn’t sound out of place on Beck’s Odelay. It’s got a nice, soft and lazy country rock feel to it. Delicate trumpet appears about halfway through, adding a nice touch as the band gets into a comfortable groove. ”Senator” is bound to get a lot of attention not only for its catchiness but for its lyrics. Malkmus ascertains with cool assurance “I know what the senator wants/What the senator wants is a blowjob.” He finally concludes that what everyone really wants is a blowjob. Quite true. “Brain Gallop” and “Stick Figures in Love” let loose for a little feel-good jamming. If the Jicks didn’t have such a proclivity for jamming in their songs, these moments would shine even brighter.
The album is definitely front-loaded, but toward the back we have “Forever 28,” an endearingly sweet jangle pop number a la ELO with several rhythmic shifts and one particularly affecting guitar riff. “Gorgeous Georgie” is an excellent closer with nice dynamic shifts and an excellent extended solo in the middle.
Malkmus had clearly moved past Pavement years ago. Some may call this a maturing, but the maturity isn’t in the writing itself. There are still goofy songs and lyrics delivered in that memorable slacker sort of way. No, the maturity here is in knowing not to dwell on the past or use the name as leverage for success or an easy buck. The Jicks will never reach the level of fame and acclaim Pavement did, or even come close. Even though it’s impossible to write a review for them without name-dropping Pavement more than their own name, listeners owe it to these guys to appreciate what they are doing for what it is. And what it is, is pretty good, especially when compared to other Pavement offshoots like Spiral Stairs.
Mirror Traffic at its best is among the best stuff Malkmus has done since Pavement. At its worst, it’s just an average indie rock album with an iconic voice leading the way and somewhat unusual diversity. Even at its slightly excessive length, many of the tracks are just too catchy and pleasing to the ear to not enjoy. It’ll be a great record to enjoy as summer comes to a close.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic Tracklist:
- “No One Is (As I Are Be)”
- “Brain Gallop”
- “Asking Price”
- “Stick Figures In Love”
- “Long Hard Book”
- “Share The Red”
- “Tune Grief”
- “Forever 28″
- “All Over Gently”
- “Fall Away”
- “Gorgeous Georgie”