Published Aug 23, 2011Stephen Malkmus has been consistent since Pavement's crumble in 1999, but he's never hit quite the same heights as in his original band. On previous efforts, Malkmus has constructed sprawling, complex songs that, while certainly interesting, offered less payout than the nuggets of guitar pop deliciousness he once served up regularly. Enter Mirror Traffic, Malkmus's fifth album with the Jicks, and his first under the watchful eye of guest producer Beck, who has trimmed the fat, leaving only Malkmus's best moments. "Senator," "Stick Figures in Love," "Tune Grief" and "Forever 28" are all reminders that Stephen Malkmus is at his best when he's having fun. "Spazz" is especially thrilling, showcasing Malkmus's lyrical audacity, melodiousness and urgent cadence, trademarks that came to typify Pavement's most beloved songs. It's not all fun and games, but slower tracks like the gently swaying "Asking Price" and the earnest waltz of "Share the Red" provide the perfect counterbalance to the album's faster fare, showing an earnest side of Malkmus, one able to express itself succinctly. Mirror Traffic is not only reminiscent of Pavement's early catalogue, but confidently holds its own against it, offering a gateway into Malkmus's work for those who've resisted thus far.
You sound invigorated, less aloof. Are you more invested in your music than ever right now?
I don't know if I feel particularly invigorated, but it's nice if it sounds that way. We were well rehearsed and pretty psyched to do these songs. Plus, Beck was like, "The songs are great! The songs are great!" That makes you feel good, to have someone say something positive while you're doing it. Makes you keep the energy going.
Were you excited after the Pavement reunion to return to your songs?
Yeah, I was! It was always in the back of my mind that that's what I'm really doing. That's the future, that's the now — my new songs. Obviously, Pavement were bigger and things from that time were more known than what I'm doing now, but I was excited. I also wanted to take a little bit of a breather because of my family life and all the other stuff I put on hold to do that Pavement tour. It was a lot of travelling and hard work, but I've had almost ten months of not playing any shows, just thinking about this album, so I'm pretty psyched about going out and seeing what it's like to be out on the road again. (Matador)