Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks - Sparkle Hard (Matador, 2018)

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Sparkle Hard

Rating: 7 dried-out highlighters out of 10

It’s still completely lost on me what the difference is between Stephen Malkmus versus Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, but this new record “Sparkle Hard” is the latter.  It’s very Jicky obviously!  Regardless of title, with Stephen’s voice and song-writing style it’s always going to sound like an extension of Pavement.  A pig is still just a bacon machine even if it wears a dress and dates a frog.  After a few years paying only middling attention, I really got into 2014’s “Wig Out At Jagbags,” and was subsequently quite looking forward to this one.  In three words: I’m digging it.  Does “I’m” count as only one word?  Anyways, while still operating in the well-established pocket he has created for himself these past few decades, “Sparkle Hard” feels…mellower, more mature even?  In this case ”mature” really just means there are some strings and not as many guitar solos and one song sounds a little country (that song is “Refute,” but it’s not as country as Pavement’s “Range Life”).  There are more keys/synths here than I remember him employing in the past, but that could be more my faulty memory than an actual stylistic change. 

I’m trying to imagine a Malkmus fan seeking out & reading this (or any) other review of “Sparkle Hard,” his eighth solo record after five Pavement releases, and trying to decide whether or not they might give this new release a chance…I can’t imagine this person exists.  These people already know how you feel about this man and his art.  If you’re not a fan, this ain’t changing your mind – he’s as Malkmus-y as ever.  And if you have no idea who he is, maybe you’re super young or you just woke from a nearly thirty year coma – just go buy “Slanted & Enchanted” and branch out from there.  

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