Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks

Wig Out At Jagbags

Written by: TL on 01/02/2014 14:58:32

As is pointed out in every other article about the new Jicks' record that I've read prior to writing this one, ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus has now made more albums with this constellation than he did with the iconic 90s group with which he originally became famous. In keeping with the band's very relaxed attitude however, "Wig Out At Jagbags" has come out without too much fanfare, or at least I'd like to think so because it would explain how I missed it earlier this month. Recorded in a farmhouse near Amsterdam while Malkmus lived in Berlin, the album is the first for the band since replacing departed drummer Janet Weiss with Jake Morris, formerly of Joggers.

Now I haven't heard all The Jicks' records, nor have I even heard all of Pavement's records, but for some reason covering the 47 year old Malkmus' efforts has fallen to me anyway, and I don't think I could write any article about his music without explaining it as some of the most laid back stuff you can put through your speakers, and "Wig Out At Jagbags" is no different. The uninitiated can expect slow-to-mid tempo songs én masse, built around chilled out, clean guitar jamming and quirky lyricism, which Malkmus delivers with archetypical, off-kilter indie rock vocals, sounding mostly like he's rambling and quipping in even and unfiltered measures about both others and his band itself.

The original reason Malkmus is famous though, is his penchant for creating a sound that's super lazy and seems to be about to go off-tune at any given moment, and yet imbuing that style with irresistible melodies and turns of phrase. The Jicks have previously given him an outlet where he could focus more on his trippy guitar playing, but "Wig Out" is reportedly an album that returns to a more concise approach which was also tuned in upon on 2011's "Mirror Traffic".

And fair enough, early on the record I hear that, as opener "Planetary Motion" and track three "Lariat" are vintage Malkmus, not sounding like much on first listen yet soon taking up residency in your brain anyway. The latter is especially noteworthy for having such a strong verse melody that it doesn't matter that there's hardly a chorus, nor that the lyrics change each time that melody is sung. "Houston Hades" shows similar qualities and "J Smoov" nicely displays the merits of the horns that have found their way onto "Wig Out" but as we otherwise move across the middle and towards the last of the album's twelve tracks, the catchy ratio decreases, surprisingly even on a more up-tempo number like "Chartjunk".

The remaining songs that I've thus far left unnamed then, are mostly decent but only momentarily remarkable, in a sense like they're the kind of warm, pleasant background tunes you'd like to have on while sipping coffee on a weekend afternoon and feeling time slow down. That quality has always been a staple of the Malkmus material I've heard however, and compared to his best songs these lack noticeably the added quality of getting in your head and making you want to find out what his lyrics refer to. That hasn't really happened for me here, and despite the late inclusion of single "Cinnamon And Lesbians", the latter part of the record has consistently felt rather dull. Overall then, "Wig Out At Jagbags" has its moments, but they're too occasional and haphazardly scattered to merit many full spins of a release that I think time will eventually label as a bit of a hit and miss collection.

Download: Lariat, Planetary Motion, Houston Hades
For The Fans Of: Pavement, Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr.

Release Date 07.01.2014
Matador / Domino

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