Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Real Emotional Trash

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Real Emotional Trash

The sludge guitar and easygoing singing on the opener, “Dragonfly Pie” is brilliantly juxtaposed with the vibes and pretty tones found on the chorus. The song flashes from straight-ahead jamming out to a more pleasant feel in quick fashion. In many ways, it’s a foreshadowing of what is to come on the rest of this ten song album. And although it is only ten songs, it sprawls to fifty-minutes.

Stephen Malkmus has been making music since the early 1990s as the chief songwriter and lead singer of the seminal band, Pavement. Many consider that band to be not only the best band of the 90s but one of the best bands of all time. With five studio albums—three of which are masterpieces—as a part of Pavement, it’s a strong argument. However, since then, as a solo artist and with his ‘Jicks’ it’s been really hard to gauge whether or not Malkmus has another masterpiece inside of him.

On Real Emotional Trash, there is certainly plenty of guitar noodling and Malkmus allows his niche — jamming on his guitar — to reign in its freedom here. The repetitive music on the last three minutes of “Hopscotch Willie” somewhat work. However, on a song like “Elmo Delmo” — which goes on for just too long — it can be trying. Malkmus loosely shreds his guitar while the music is stagnant around him. The worst part comes around the five minute mark as the band sings in a falsetto tone, “elmo delmo” count it, not four, nor six, nor even eight but eleven times, in succession. It’s a song that could not have only been re-hashed and edited but maybe been edited off the album entirely.

Another apparent issue is that Malkmus seems unable to rock out anymore. Maybe it’s that middle age, marriage and having a child has mellowed him down but Real Emotional Trash could sure have used a “Summer Babe.” Mind you, this isn’t to say that Malkmus’ genius is doubtful on this album. The catchy call and response that Malkmus does on “Cold Son” is a memorable moment. And it’s worth noting that the song only goes on for just under four minutes, most definitely an album highlight.

Although the jamming doesn’t always work, like in “Baltimore,” it works flawlessly on the lengthy title track. Starting off as a serene ballad, it manifests into one of Malkmus’ best guitar solos. The development is stunning and even at over ten minutes; it’s a great piece of music.

Malkmus is still one of the best guitar players and melody craftsmen able to currently make music; there is no doubt about that. There is just too much hit and miss on this album. Personally, I would have loved nine, crisp, four-minute songs surrounding the gorgeous ten-minute epic, “Real Emotional Trash.” An album like that would have surely been the ‘masterpiece’ a lot of us Pavement fans are still waiting for from Malkmus. Who knows? Maybe they’ll reunite and deliver something special, until then, we’re left with a decent album by Malkmus and the Jicks.