Still providing the musical world with woozy slacker-rock and alt.indie more than twenty years after we first heard of Pavement.
Date: August 28, 2014
Venue: Rescue Rooms
In 1994, ultimate slacker rock Californians Pavement had a minor hit on these shores with Cut Your Hair. It was, and still is, the closest Stephen Malkmus has come to commercial success. Malkmus was the front man of that band whose brief flirtation with the mainstream would have gone against the band’s cult status.
You see, whilst our charts reeked with the sickly sweet aroma of Britpop, there was an undercurrent bubbling stealthy beneath the hyperbole. And that’s where Malkmus remains to this day, now promoting his 6th album with The Jicks, his backing band and bezzie mates, consisting of a bald bassist, a hirsute drummer and an attractive, blonde female secondary guitarist to Stephen himself.
But while the band are different (to Pavement), his slacker sound and attitude remains, though not until opener Jo Jo’s Jacket’s brisk alt.rock has shaken the large Rescue Rooms crowd into a frenzy.
“Welcome. To your home town”, japes Malkmus in his unmistakable American devil may care brogue. Now 48, he promises to take us on an adventure through his impressive back catalogue, while also pushing new album, the brilliantly monikered, Wig Out at Jag Bags
Amongst the fun is a reference to local boys Sleaford Mods, whom Malkmus says are friends of theirs. It’s clearly a touch of pandering, but a genuine glimpse into his knowledge of British culture. He is, after all, a self confessed Anglophile, and a supporter of Hull City, whose exploits in the fledgling stages of the Europa League are referenced later.
Back to the music if his dodgy, backfiring mic will let him, we’re treated to a masterful version of single Lariat – guitar solos duelling with intelligent, observational lyrics, which, in fairness, pretty much sums up their style.
Much of their output is equal parts smooth Americana, slacker rock and good old fashioned gritty indie. Not gritty in a guttersnipe, Shoreditch way, but gritty in the way only American bands can produce. Think Dinosaur Jnr. Think Pixies. In fact that last reference is probably closest to the mark, certainly on the live stage.
It’s tempting to say that there’s a tightness to this unison of Malkmus and The Jicks, but while each guitar solo sounds fluid, each song united, there’s a looseness to it; an opportunity for each member to veer and swerve from the song’s given path.
This freedom makes them the band they are, even when it’s stripped back to just a plaintive piano and bass combination on the haunting Freeze The Saints.
Surreal Teenagers allows them to really stray from the script. It’s a decadent shambles, if such a thing exists; more punk than slacker rock.
But that’s the brilliance of Steve and The Jicks. They can merge genres, span horizons and deliver a mesmeric display of adroit old fashioned indie.