“DD Review: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – ‘Lariat'”

Great music reminds us that we’re all ubiquitous and awesome, and like any act, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks are at their best when they cease overly adhering to what they perceive as their own defining characteristics and just do it.

“Lariat,” their new single, contains elements of rockabilly, folk, and roots rock and roll, in that order — making it quintessentially indie, of course. Above all, though, it is light, and fun. Its brief anatomy of three minutes and five seconds, though slightly semantically goofy, and taking a quick tempo, projects like a sonic planetarium a renewed perspective in the listener of what is immediate, familiar and spectacular.

The song makes use of Malkmus’ trademark preference for quick changes of bright, useable major chords, as if mocking such paradigms playfully, and the style seems pretty predisposed, until piano comes in at song’s end. This moment is highly welcome, because it’s a catapult into veritable bliss from what is ironically a lyrical accomplishment in its own right — resignation of age, one in which he openly relishes, or gloats in, music taste for its own sake.

Like almost everyone, I’m sure, I discovered this new single via pitchfork. I was definitely sold when I saw that there were lyrical allusions to the Dead and Mudhoney, but the writer has a way of suggesting that there is danger in the drug references, or that they portray a dark or unsure time. Nothing could be further from the truth: in fact, I get the sense that Malkmus is just saying this to try to be cool. It can’t be socially easy being in his spot as an underground rocker of such fame, and the Pacific Northwest strikes me as the kind of place where people, like him, have a lot of close friends, and who would be inclined to closely examine any new lyrics he puts to wax. In this way, it seems his obligation to walk, not necessarily a tight rope, but a carefully crafted, intricate path of social lyrical courtesy, so to speak. That is, there are no stoppers on the new single — it’s not overly earnest or personal, nor does it even paint one particular picture of anything too vividly. It is, simply, gregarious.

If you want, you can go to Malkmus’ website and find out not only the name of the impending new album, but of each track, also. This sort of hype machine administration almost makes me feel lucky to live in a place where not many people have even heard of Pavement. I feel like I can just enjoy the music purely, unencumbered by all the extraneous, excessive analysis thereof likely to be exhibited by, ahem, hipsters. Actually, I’ve never even been to the Northwest. I think I’ll go read that Kathleen Hanna interview now.



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