Words About Music
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “Wig Out at Jagbags”
In 1999, Pavement, the Slacker Kings of Indie Rock, called it quits. Lead singer Stephen Malkmus formed his own group, the Jicks, and they’ve been recording new music ever since, even through a short 2010 Pavement reunion/cash grab. While his new group hasn’t achieved the level of fame, cult, and memorability, he has delivered songs in essentially the same humorous, jagged style he’s perfected since forming Pavement in the early 90s. With his sixth record with the Jicks, “Wig Out at Jagbags,” he’s able to continue this formula without ever sounding redundant or repetitive.
Things kick off with the bouncy “Planetary Motion” and it never gets any less fun. Malkmus has the same songwriting voice and singing voice as he did 20 years ago and it is never less refreshing than it was back then. He’s just so fun to listen to. It also helps that a lot of the songs on “Jagbags” are incredibly catchy, even when they border on cheesy. I mean, it’s hard to take someone seriously when they call people “slim shadies,” but it’s funny nonetheless. He continues with “The Janitor Revealed,” a song just as great as the opening track, if not better. I love that these songs aren’t just lyrical, but they’re also instrumentally interesting. They move and mature just like tons of good songs do, which is something that has always been one of Malkmus’ strong suit.
One significant difference between The Jicks and Pavement is that The Jicks’ recordings are much less unpredictably loud and crazy than some of Pavement’s tracks. This is especially evident on “Jagbags,” which sees a new level of chill for this band. I feel like this is what John Mayer wants to sound like. It’s a great summer mid-afternoon record to warm up with through the winter. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks is the kind of band you’d see pull that perfect afternoon slot at Insert Summer Music Fest-aroo-palooza.
Malkmus’ lyrics are the kind of words that probably make sense if you pay more attention to them, but they’re soaked with so much sarcasm that it’s sometimes hard to tell. For example, one of my favorites: “We grew up listening to music from the best decade ever, the A.D.D.’s.” Even if you don’t really pay attention to what he’s saying, it’s hard to deny that this is just a good, relaxing album. I would also like to point out that this project feels like a coherent band way more than it feels like Stephen Malkmus and some other folks and that’s just another thing I like about them.
I could go on and on about the well written instrumentation, the relaxed atmosphere, and Malkmus’ lyrical ability, but I don’t think I’d be able to do it justice. “Wig Out at Jagbags” is a surprisingly good record, especially for a man 20 years into his career that released some of his most memorable music with a different band. It may not hold up or stand the test of time like “Slanted and Enchanted” or “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” but at the moment I’m really enjoying what I’m hearing. It doesn’t take itself too seriously at all and it’s just an infectious listen full of earworms. If you’re looking for something more subdued and, for lack of a better word, mature than Pavement’s releases then listen to this album and the others from The Jicks. You won’t be disappointed.
SCORE – 7.9
FAVORITE TRACKS – The Janitor Revealed, Lariat, Houston Hades, J Smoov, Rumble at the Rainbo, Chartjunk, Cinnamon and Lesbians, Surreal Teenagers