STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS play the Phoenix September 21. See listing. Rating: NNN
This is the album Pavement fanatics have been waiting 10 years for. After a decade of rejecting everything that people loved about the iconic 90s slacker-rock band, Malkmus has dropped the jam-band noodling and returned to writing understated, ramshackle pop tunes. Hell, he's even teamed up with fellow alt-rock-era legend Beck to produce it. But following on the heels of a cash-grab Pavement reunion tour and retrospective collection, something feels a bit contrived about Mirror Traffic. Wasn't Generation X supposed to be above the endless nostalgia of the boomers?
Snark aside, this is Malkmus doing what he does best. Casually clever lyrics, gloriously fuzzy guitar leads and that immediately identifiable off-kilter pop genius dominate. Fifteen tracks is about five too many, but that's why we've got the skip button. Beck doesn't intrude too much as a producer and keeps that lovable looseness intact. Had he convinced Malkmus to trim more of the fat, a good album might have been great instead.
Top track: Senator