As critically acclaimed as Pavement has always been (and justifiably so), you’d think Stephen Malkmus as a solo artist (well at least as an artist outside of Pavement) would receive equal praise. On the contrary I find his work after Pavement has been vastly underrated. “1% of One”, “Real Emotional Trash”, “Mama” and “It Kills” are some of my favorite songs of the entire Pavement/Malkmus catalog, yet they’ve all been a part of relatively under-appreciated releases. Having said this as you can imagine, I am thoroughly enjoying Mirror Traffic, from Malkmus and his Portland bandmates, The Jicks.
A lot of reviews are calling this a mellower, more mature album. And while I don’t think I could ever feel comfortable calling Malkmus mature, it’s true, the majority of these songs are warmer, more reserved tunes. Songs such as “Asking Price” and “Share the Red” are grown up takes on the laid-back sounds of “Major Leagues”, “Range Life” and “Heaven is a Truck.” So yes, it’s safe to say it’s a generally more relaxed and folksy album, but it’s definitely not a countrified or acoustic change of pace. This is still Malkmus, so his irony, self-awareness and guitar are at the heart of what make this record great.
Speaking of guitar. Malkmus can still shred like J Mascis (or Stephen Malkmus!) when the band pumps up the energy. On first single, “Senator” (no I’m not going to mention the obvious phrase that everyone has been when talking about this song) the rocking guitar and crunchy tone almost sound downright angry. There are other bursts of vintage slacker jangle scattered throughout the album, but rather than catch a roll, Malkmus and the Jicks slow things down and contemplate. `While I wouldn’t say this album is excessively mellow or mature, it is more thoughtful, and it really does sound like it was created by a man coming to terms with aging into his mid 40s.
Click the link to hear “Senator.”