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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

From the Brain of a Rock Star Genious

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Real Emotional Trash

Matador Records

I've been pondering for a week if we have reached a place in time where we can discuss Stephen Malkmus without mentioning his long-time 1990s band Pavement. OK, we haven't. For two decades Malkmus has contributed dozens of unique recordings to our collective ears. But what has gone less noticed is his work as a solo artist, in particular The Silver Jews (listen to the band's phenomenal LP, The Natural Bridge.)


As a leader, or contributor, Malkmus has always been involved in music that keeps the listener thinking. Even when he was barely old enough to drink, his songs startled other seminal bands like The Wedding Present enough for them to cover his music (see "Box Elder"). In the musical brain of Malkmus, melodies go sideways, suddenly pop hooks dissolve into Fender benders, and lyrics jumble simple, unrelated thoughts together, making the pedantic seem extraordinary. With The Jicks he works with Joanna Bolme (of Elliot Smith fame), Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater Kinney, and the prolific Mike Clark. The result is unusual pop music that knocks you out. It sends you to someplace else and keeps you wondering how you got there and what happened to your socks.

Malkmus has spent his time as a musician constantly celebrating his individualism and releasing recordings that seem to defy description. Beyond that, it makes no sense to draw comparisons or attach labels. Sure, "lo-fi," "indie rock," "art damaged" and other words that help us box up art so we can put it in a corner are often affixed to his music. But, ultimately, it's just atypical rock music and you'll probably find yourself humming along.

You'll hear "Gardenia" on the radio here in Central Oregon and maybe someday the Portland-based band will come our way and play live. In the meantime, join The Jicks on the journey through Real Emotional Trash as they travel around in different circles constantly surprising you in the seemingly unplanned turns they take. - Chuck Arnold

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