Stephen Malkmus Pig Lib (and the Jicks)

[Matador; 2003]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Pavement, Beck, Guided by Voices

Hey what to say, but this is just wonderful. Steve has delivered unto the fan a grand, fun, strange record, the one she's been waiting for since Wowee Zowie, which she fell in love with, the cassette that is, a blue thing, in the row house in Elkins Park. Well it took a few weeks, and once it settled in, it was a landscape, an atmosphere too, really the best record Pavement would ever make. Ever, you. Sure there was radness all over Cr'kt Rain, the soundtrack to Sex for Cool Nerds. And Slanted was arcane the moment it was pressed, bucolic architecture for her own garden planet. But Wowie was always welcome on the turntable; it was always startling and unfinished and different.

The greatest numbers were sprawlingly horizontal affairs, shaped by the curve of the earth, open to the essential gasses in the air, particular particles attended to as if by accident. The gatefold on Wowie is all the explanation she needed, a pointillist penciled thing, winging road-esque arrows and ramps. The album was an apex in part for its dumping-ground like quality, a song for every shade of light in the canopied afternoon, the sum greater than its parts. With a few stand-out cuts, yes, but Wowie is not really for mix tapes ‘cause it was the mix tape of 1994.

But alas, Wowie was a miserable failure of sorts, a death of something, the end of fun time, the mass grave of Pavement's chronic case of anarchic splendor. You can't be ultra cool for more than an ultra brief moment. The band, and Malkmus, seemed to suffer the bruises in a way she never expected. It seemed like two albums that tried to PLEASE people followed next. What fuck fuck fuck. Please please me, Steve! After Wowie, the songs were there, but where were the nads? Where was the cocksurity? Where was the room sound?

The first solo record, she checked it out at the Virgin listening station. She was on to the Gram Parsons isle in 30 seconds or so. Had it all been for funny? Just campy Fun? Was she wrong having feelings when she listened to The Pavement? She thought jeez, it always seemed like something was at stake. This is friggin' cute.

Now Pig Lib, risky, like death or glory.

Pig Lib is a rush. "Water and a Seat" is the launching track, wicked spinning frames, coughed choruses and great confusion. Hearing it the first time, she felt so good. All that talk of '70s art rock and '60s folk weirdoes has finally paid off. The guitars of Mister Malkmus and Mike Clark freely do anything, but the synths and keys are the wall paper at almost every moment, setting the ambience, providing skin for the guitars' nerves. And he's singing, not plucking the syllables, and John Moen and Joanna Bolme are swinging.

She wishes Mister Malkmus all the best. With the best yet to be. She doesn't care for the cute songs about people. You could write "Vanessa from Queens" in your sleep, and it won't be interesting in a month. She digs the maps and motion: save your flare for the things things things. Short stories as songs, no. "Ed Aims," admittedly, was pretty rad, as she reflects back.

1. Water and a Seat
2. Ramp of Death
3. (Do Not Feed) The Oysters
4. Vanessa from Queens
5. Sheets
6. Animal Midnight
7. Dark Wave
8. Witch Mountain Bridge
9. Craw Song
10. 1% of One
11. Us

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