By: Andrew Bruss
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks :: 04.03.08 :: Paradise Rock Club :: Boston, MA
Pavement is a thing of the past, and The Jicks are the future. That's the message Stephen Malkmus sent to a sold-out crowd in Boston. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks performed almost every track off their latest release, Real Emotional Trash (released March 4 on Matador Records), an album that tells tales of love, murder and distance with some tripped-out lyrics that are certainly up for interpretation.
Since Pavement disbanded, Malkmus has spent several years trying to find his solo voice. He didn't do too well when he tried to swing the neo-folk thing, but the George Harrison-meets-Tony Iommi sound he and his group are currently rocking is a perfect storm of harsh riffs, experimental jams and mellow moments.
One of the earliest examples of this formula was a tear through Trash opener "Dragonfly Pie." The tune features a powerful-yet-easy going lead guitar lick that brings to mind the opening lick from Black Sabbaths "War Pigs." The verses had a dark, looming sound that instantly transitioned into an up-beat "Octopus's Garden" style chorus that demonstrated Malkmus' knack for writing pop tunes.
They followed "Dragonfly Pie" with Trash's grand finale, "Wicked Wanda." As much credit as Malkmus is given for being an "indie rock god," this tune demonstrated how truly under-appreciated he is as a technical guitarist. Much like Prince and Billy Corgan, Malkmus can tweak and maim his six-string in a way that will mesmerize any audience. But, given his frontman status and songwriting prowess, his guitar skills rarely make the headlines.
"Baltimore" gave the rest of the band a chance to shine. During a mid-tune jam, Joanna Bolme kept the pace with some articulate walking basslines, while Janet Weiss (drums), formerly of Sleater-Kinney upped the ante with some Keith Moon-esque drum fills that would put Meg White to shame any day of the week.
Things reached their peak with "Hopscotch Willie" a murder ballad that utilized a loud-soft dynamic between the choruses and verses that made the crowd go wild. Malkmus gently sang, "Hopscotch Willie swore he was framed," and then went into howl mode to fully communicate "it was the classic example of a fall guy." The back and forth between sweet and somber to give-em-hell vocals raised the energy level in the room as the crowd struggled to keep up.
Malkmus and Co. wrapped the show with an encore of "Real Emotional Trash" that they stretched out with an extensive experimental jam that brought to mind some old Velvet Underground bootlegs. Some fans may have been a bit disappointed that such a heavy emphasis was placed on his newest work, but with Pavement a thing of the past, the material he brought to Boston demonstrated that Malkmus still has quite the future ahead of him.
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