Spirited Throwback Sound
To say that Stephen Malkmus is the former frontman of Pavement and end it at that is seriously doing justice to the relative lack of influence his previous project has on Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. On his latest effort, Wig Out at Jagbags, Malkmus comes out loose, lackadaisical and carefree. Its narrative may wax poetic on getting older, but its insights are on par with pun-heavy dad jokes — and that’s totally okay. Lyrics aside, no tracks tend to stand out enough to justify much of an additional listen past trying to find anything exceptional with them.
Opener “Planetary Motion” is a throwback-happy jaunt that ultimately sets the musical tone at around the 1970s. Hair band guitar wails announce the clunky track teeming with really the same production values as “Shibboleth,” as “Independence Street” as, hell, almost every single other song. Tempos may change, but Malkmus and Co. are still on that same even keel. Given the surprising impact of 2011’s Minor Traffic, this latest offering feels like a comedown at the most; pleasant background music at its best. There’s a bit of a meandering quality that hints at jam bands, yet Wig Out at Jagbags is so wholly short that it’s impossible to walk any further along that sonic path.
About the best song with the most sardonic name, cheeky rebellious lyrics, and a surprising bit of harmony and horns a la Chicago appears in the latter half of the album in the form of “Chartjunk.” Wig Out at Jagbags isn’t trying to be a serious record and Malkmus sure as shit isn’t concerned with the same poetics and heft as with Pavement, so it comes as almost a surprise that less driving gimmicks are used throughout the LP. Had the spirit of “Chartjunk” overtaken more of this album, it would at least offer a reason to turn over the record, fire up the sound system, and spin to your heart’s content.