Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Pig Lib

Stephen Malkmus's self-titled 2001 solo debut didn't sound half bad — that is, until the release of this full-length follow-up. Pig Lib finds the former Pavement front-man reconnected with the confident, recklessly refined swagger that informed so much of his old band's best material. That's clear from the outset of the disc's leadoff track "Water and a Seat," its catchy melody punctuated by a clever and effective stutter-step meter breach. Meanwhile, tracks like "(Do Not Feed the) Oyster" and "Animal Midnight" prove Pig Lib represents not only a return to form for Malkmus, but a confirmation of the Jicks as something much more than just a cobbled together backing band. "Vanessa From Queens" smacks of Lou Reed at his coolest (and, in turn, Pavement at their most Lou Reed), but the boring, overlong "1% of One" near disc's end proves that even an artist enjoying an inspirational renaissance can benefit from a judicious editor once in a while. At any rate, Pig Lib ought to make a lot of Pavement fans feel a few years younger. One burning question still remains unanswered, though: what the hell is a Jick? (Matador)