Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’

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Although their existence was short lived, the arrival of Wild Flag in 2011 was a majorly exciting moment for Sleater-Kinney fans.

By then, the blazingly great Portland trio had been on hiatus for five years, leaving a crater-sized hole in indie rock behind. Wild Flag arrived as a super powered blast of fresh female energy from four women with a long friendship and a fiery chemistry.

Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss were joined by Mary Timony of Helium (and currently Ex-Hex) and Rebecca Cole of The Minders. They’re all players with impeccable pedigrees in underground rock, but their sum was much more than their parts. Together they created an exuberant album filled with charged, bouncy rock’n’roll missiles, equal parts punk and pop and classic rock.

With Timony and Brownstein sharing vocal duties, and Rebecca Cole’s new wavey keyboards, there was plenty of fresh ingredients in Wild Flag’s sound to both excite Sleater-Kinney devotees, while establishing Wild Flag as a force to be reckoned with on their own terms.

Official video for “Romance” by Wild Flag, taken from their self-titled debut, out on Merge Records.

Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (Helium), Rebecca Cole (The Minders), Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks)

Modesty and plain good manners might prevent them from saying so themselves, but the fact that Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks have thrived, rather than simply endured over 17 years and delivered six albums of buzzy, sub-cultural significance, constitutes an impressive legacy. The challenge with album number seven is one that any successful band with integrity faces: how to safeguard that legacy and hold on to their identity without rehashing old ground (unthinkable), and also say something meaningful while (crucially) having fun doing it? Meeting that issue head on in the run up to The Jicks’ seventh record involved some “navel gazing”, according to singer, songwriter, and guitarist Malkmus and not only in terms of what it means to be releasing music in 2018. If, like him, you’re a voracious consumer of all kinds of culture and feel the need to interact with it, rather than just react, then inevitably “there’s a world that prompts you to put your best foot forward”. With Sparkle Hard Malkmus, Mike Clark (keyboards), Joanna Bolme (bass) and Jake Morris (drums) do exactly that. And they hit the ground running – on air treads.

The former Pavement frontman offers up a collection of simultaneously effortless and intricate songs, reaffirming his ability to write hook-heavy indie rock, and throwing in a few new tricks (vocoder!) along the way. Between a fiddle-fueled duet with Kim Gordon (“Refute”), a chugging rumination on police brutality (“Bike Lane”), and gloaming guitar riffs (“Shiggy,” “Future Suite”), Sparkle Hardis Malkmus’s finest offering with the Jicks so far. And in addition to his melodic triumphs, Malkmus hasn’t lost any of his verbal wit since his last album, 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags. “You know you should be blushin’ / To a hue of Robitussin” he sings on “Middle America,” while on “Solid Silk,” Malkmus observes that a working man will “Never see the butter side of his daily bread.” Overall, Sparkle Hardis a landmark offering from one of rock and roll’s most enduring figures.