Stephen Malkmus

Groove Denied

Matador

Apr 11, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Fourteen years on from Stephen Malkmus' last truly solo record, 2005's Face the Truth, we receive this missive from an alternate universe Malkmus in which, rather than being an awkward indie-pop legend fronting Pavement and later, to diminishing returns, The Jicks, he is a techno-worshipping, Berlin-clubbing hipster, laying waste to old-fashioned guitar rock through the power of raw beats.

Well, at least that seems like the story played out around Groove Denied, Malkmus' "dance" record. Genuinely inspired by sojourns to the German capital's underground club scene, young Stephen takes the opportunity to create something aside from and other to his accepted path here-though how far he really strays from that road is open to debate.

It's at the times when he sounds like he's not really competent at what he's doing that this album holds the most interest. Songs like "Forget Your Place" throw up pitch-shifted vocals and robotic romance over a wash of looping, ebbing, flowing dirge eventually swooning strangely into sub-bass James Blake territory. It sounds naively confident, a little bit silly, and quite surprising.

The amateurism of opener "Belziger Faceplant" charms as sci-fi synths and warped, warbling words inform a vaguely adequate electronica tune, while later on the R Stevie Moore-lite of "Viktor Borgia" this childlike approach begins to grateVHS-pop of this kind is always going to be crafted more expertly by the likes of Ariel Pink.

There's a lot of fairly straightforward, classically recognizable Malkmus here though"Come Get Me" would find a comfortable home on most Jicks records; "Rushing the Acid Frat" is a hook-laden alt-rocker peppered with his trademark lyrical surrealism ("Slather your eyes with perfume and eventually we will die together" and other such epithets); "Love the Door" offers a lysergic, California sunshine trip reminiscent of Odelay-era Beck.

There are guitars, disjointed couplets, the occasional memorable chorus, and there's even a great, '60s soul style banger in the form of "Come Get Me," slathered in tape fuzz and sampled rhythms. Yet one is left wondering if abandoning all semblance of tradition and reason might have served Malkmus better herewhile closing sweetheart "Grown Nothing" and the fully realized jerk-rocker "Ocean of Revenge" are hugely enjoyable, it sometimes feels a little like business as usual.

Groove Denied is certainly a departure for this indie legend, but he never really strays too far from his well-trodden patch of pavement. (www.stephenmalkmus.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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