Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
A welcoming and bizarro world of abstraction has been the place that Stephen Malkmus has always painted or yanked us into. It's a place that feels oddly schizophrenic, jabbery, playfully enunciated, randomly punctuated and awkwardly fluid. The Portland native, formerly of the legendary Pavement (a group that only partially gets together at weddings and fuels rumor mills with heresy and conjecture of a potential reunion every other second), is as quirky as any have ever come in the last 20-30 years, writing lyrics that make sense and absolutely do NOT make a lick of sense at all. He's always taken an exploratory approach to the ways that he likes to scrunch and twist his words into gummy-like concoctions, flinging them out - in brilliantly warped configurations and on strange assignments - without many a care as to how they're going to be met out in the world of discerning opinions and flimsy nature. They're just acting. They're playing the parts that he needs them to play. They're meant as references - not too literal and not too figurative - but more the ends to a mean, or the wild impressions of a man who has a mind that operates as an untrained puppy licking, lapping, chasing, scratching, crewing, running, mauling, barking and sleeping all over the place, whenever and however it wants. Malkmus, with Pavement and with the Jicks - who consist of the great Janet Weiss, Joanna Bolme and Mike Clark, operates with a style all his own, one that refuses to be rudimentary or abide by any kinds of constrictions or follow any kinds of rules that other songwriters do. This is avant garde indie rock and roll and he invented it. What Malkmus does that everyone has always loved is that he still, to this day, refuses to give much of a fuck about convention or lines and songs that have finite interpretations, that can be unscrewed and figured out. They are riddles, written into riddles and for puzzle fiends that are the ultimate kinds of benders, endless hours or bickering and mind jaunts, revealing pieces of a head just letting everything that floats into it, get a little face-time, get a little light of day and letting the pieces just flutter together, essentially a collage of ideas and notes that feel somewhat cohesive. The songs on Pig Jib, Face the Truth and the latest, Real Emotional Truth are as adventurous as they come. They are freakouts and space outs and completely up in the air - splendid imaginings of what it would be like to take the shreds of weed-inspired chatter and actually stammer and contemplate them long enough so that they became art, not just wee hours of the morning nonsense. His chicken scratch and gobbledy goo gets sharp and academic somehow, as if you can believe in much of it, consider it and then make a case for it being the work of someone wiser than the smart asses, even if much of the work is in direct conversation with or a result of the many-splendored things that the dumb asses do. Malkmus writes songs that feel mafia-esque - as if they're filled with nicknames and inside information - that still come off as takes on that lifestyle through the eyes of Steve Miller or someone like him, only with a doctorate degree in pet peeves and idiosyncrasies, as well as a fetish for clever, smirking humor that everyone can get behind.
Stephen Malkmus Official Site