Stephen Malkmus is still a California kid at heart. Though the former Pavement frontman’s latest album with his band the Jicks, Wig Out at Jagbags, was recorded overseas in Berlin, the record’s lyrics remain rife with references to the West Coast.
Whether talking about grooving to the Grateful Dead on “Lariat” or extolling the virtues of punk rock in the valley on “Rumble at the Rainbo,” Malkmus’ words inspire repeated images of laid-back Cali slackers getting down on every beach from Redondo to Santa Monica. And that sunny vibe doesn’t end with the lyric sheet.
Musically, the sixth studio album from the Jicks summons up many of the same comparisons lobbed at its predecessor, 2011’s Mirror Traffic. Much like on that previous album, Malkmus and company forgo extended jams to slot one concise pop gem after another on to the disc’s just over 40 minute running time. Employing trebly fret runs, bright melodies and bouncing rhythms, many tracks drift pleasantly by anchored only by eminently hummable choruses and clever couplets. Sudden forays into hazy psychedelic breakdowns, when they occur, seem to exist only to keep listeners on their toes.
Observant fans will be able to spot moments inspired by such staples of ‘70s rock radio as The Eagles (see the peaceful, easy noodling on “Houston Hades”) and Chicago (the horns on “Chartjunk”), proving once and for all that Malkmus clearly has no problem wearing his nostalgia on his sleeve.
“We grew up listening to the music of the best decade ever,” the singer even shouts on the aforementioned “Lariat.”
And while the decade mentioned in the song is the ‘80s (or more specifically, the “A-D-D’s”), the same sentiment could hold true for anyone who prizes the music of their youth as the best that money can buy. For Malkmus, an artist pinned inexorably to the ‘90s indie rock boom, just the fact that he’s continued to make music with the same experimental vigor as that of the decades that spawned him is proof enough.