Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash – Review

stephenmalkmus200Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Real Emotional Trash (Matador)
by Tim Den

Just when you thought The Jicks – along with the taste of ’70s guitar histrionics – had abandoned Stephen Malkmus, Real Emotional Trash takes you back to Pig Lib‘s grandiose running times, blazing fretwork, and zany stonerisms, making sure you understand that Face the Truth wasn’t a permanent about-face. Indeed, Malkmus’ official second full-length with his beloved backing band (now featuring ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer/backup vocalist Janet Weiss) – his fourth post-Pavement work overall – shares many similarities with its predecessor. Guitars play nothing but fuzzy, reeking-of-bongs riffs that would make, uh, Bongzilla proud, tripping over one another as they race down the five minute mark alongside Malkmus’ trademark cryptic lyrics and Weiss’ many thunderous rolls. Tempos accelerate then decelerate, amplitude blows up then dies down, time signatures speed up then slow down (and are sometimes drunk): You get the picture. All the while, engineer TJ Doherty does a superb job of making everything sound modern, yet at the same time, as if you just blew the dust off of an unfound, 40 year-old Iron Butterfly rehearsal demo. I’m telling you, you can get contact high offa just listening to the bending, smoldering, trippy solos that fill most of Real Emotional Trash. Whereas Pig Lib offered moments of pop accessibility, Real Emotional Trash drops you into the resin and never allows you to come up for air. Right from the get-go, you’re smothered in its retrolixx until the end of the hour. Yes, it’s a lot to take, especially for fans of Malkmus’ more “casual” work who might find this all too psychedelic, jumbled, technical, etc. But make no mistake, there’s plenty to love here, particularly if you put in the time to discover all the strangely catchy nooks and crannies. After about the third or fourth listen, you’ll find yourself humming most of the album, a feat unimaginable during your first time through.

So the choice is yours. Know what you’re getting into, try to “get” it by spinning it a handful of times, and hope for the best. On the other hand, if a denser version of Pig Lib is exactly what you’ve been waiting for… light up and dive in!