Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Wig Out at Jagbags

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Wig Out at Jagbags
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On Wig Out at Jagbags, it occasionally sounds like Stephen Malkmus — the ageless California-bred/Portland-based former Pavement leader — wrote these inscrutable songs immediately after playing an all-night game of silly Scrabble with British aristocrats. He manipulates language and his eclectically inflected voice makes it feel like he's always on the brink of a bleary crack-up. His craftily contemporary words are housed in highly entertaining, sophisticated (vaguely classic) rock structures bolstered by blindingly blazing guitar parts and ear-grabbing left turns that produce a slew of cool treats.

"Lariat" has a timeless feel and the already well-pondered lyric, "We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead," which is puzzling and funny. "Houston Hades" is the perfect kind of laidback cool; everything about it seems casually tossed off (including an Eminem reference) before ending with an earnest shout-along coda. With its droning tones and murky melodicism, "Shibboleth" has all the markers of a Doolittle-era Pixies b-side, while "Surreal Teenagers" recalls a mini-opera by the Who, like, say, "A Quick One While He's Away."

Few of his contemporaries possess a post-important-band solo discography as prolific and consistently great as that of Stephen Malkmus, but each new album firmly leaves his past in the dust. (Matador)