Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Real Emotional Trash (2008)


It has to be hard being the well-recognized frontman and mouthpiece for a seminal `90s indie band trying to establish yourself as a solo artist. After Pavement disbanded, Malkmus has released five studio albums -- not a bad string in just seven years. But on Real Emotional Trash, it feels like Malkmus is still haunted by the lingering ghostly presence of his former band.

Of course, being the principle songwriter for the group, it seems logical that bits and pieces are going to permeate any future musical projects that he undertakes. With that being said, Real Emotional Trash lets Malkmus and his backing Jicks push their sound into new, sprawling territory. Accenting his simple chord progression style with heavy psychedelic guitars and energetic yet droning basslines, new boundaries have been set while letting slow tempos and thick guitars call up slight comparison to late `60s hard rock.

By allowing himself to take up the primary songwriter spot, Malkmus has given himself liberty to write songs like the nearly seven-minute "Willie Hopscotch," dancing on a smooth bassline foundation and dropping into freakout guitar moments with well-orchestrated interludes while dancing on some `60s pop guitar work. And when that just doesn't cut it, he pushes the 10-minute long title track into mellow ballad territory, letting the instruments have an extended dialogue in the middle while picking up tempo and dynamics until it's an all-out walking blues guitar shuffle.

This new formula doesn't work as well for every song, however. "Cold Son" sounds more like a Pavement outtake, and by the time "Elmo Delmo" comes on, I've just about had it with loose shuffling drums and absurdist lyrics. But even the weaker tracks don't affect the husky sway of "Baltimore," a track that doesn't shy away from heavy guitar distortion, thick drums, walking basslines, and traditional songcraft. "Gardenia" shines even brighter, an upbeat, straightly played pop song to bob your head to while dreaming of daisies in fields, and the running you plan to do through them.

While the album doesn't make leaps and bounds away from Stephen's classic songwriting style, there is progression being made. The album is solid and steady, and most people aren't going to complain about a rehashing of Pavement.