Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Wig Out at Jagbags
Jan 06, 2014 Web Exclusive
Seeing as Stephen Malkmus has spent the last couple of years living in Berlin, one might expect Wig Out at Jagbags to be his version of Low, or The Idiot, or Drum's Not Dead. Rather, it sounds less like it was conceived and recorded in Continental Europe than produced at Abbey Road, in the 1970s, by Paul McCartney. As if embracing accusations that The Jicks are the Wings to Pavement's Beatles, Malkmus has created his most Wings-y album to date. Jagbag's soft-ish rock vibe is so contentedly amiable, you half expect it to be wearing a mullet (of Kintyre) and hoisting both its thumbs in the air every four seconds.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. As bands such as Howlin Rain and Melvins have testified with their recent cover versions, there is much to love about Wings and their influence hasn't been given the full credit it deserves.
Jagbags might suffer from a mild case of "the mids"—mid-paced, middle-aged, and (at times) middle-of-the-road—but there is still much to enjoy here. Malkmus' care-free, cool-dude voice is as seductive as ever. His lyrics remain uniquely enigmatic, only occasionally slipping into daft "Mott the Hoople's got no scruples" rhyming couplets. With its heavy bass, freestyle synthesiser, and (anti)religious subject matter, "Shibboleth" exhibits a little more bite. So does "Rumble at the Rainbo" (sic), a middle-aged punk song about middle-aged punks. "Chartjunk" is a catchy little number complete with "Got to Get You Into My Life"-type horns and some grand axe wiggery. "J Smoov" is a fragilely whispered lullaby adorned with gorgeous guitar shimmers and a gentle breeze of Bacharachian brass.
"Take it up a notch or two," Malkmus sings on "Houston Hades." You kinda wish he'd follow his own advice. We'll give it two thumbs up, nonetheless. (www.stephenmalkmus.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 6/10