It’s been nearly three decades since Stephen Malkmus changed indie rock with Pavement’s debut album Slanted and Enchanted. With Pavement he was an uncertain kid in his 20’s, singing about whatever musings crossed his mind. Now, nearly thirty years later, Malkmus is over 50 and still making some of the best music out there.
“Cast Off” fronts the Jicks’ latest album, Sparkle Hard. The harmony is driven by climbing keys and Malkmus sings the melody in a way that somehow comes across as both lazy and rehearsed. The laid back verses are intercut with distorted guitar lead instrumentals. The song tails off among the distortion as Malkmus sings remorsefully that “There’s no room left to do/Everything that you said you’d do”.
“Middle America” was the album’s leading singer. The song sounds as charming as the romanticized version of the states between Indiana and Colorado that many of us are familiar with, but its lyrical content is less pleasant. “Men are scum, I won’t deny/May you be shit-faced the day you die” Malkmus sings on the second and last chorus.
“Difficulties – Let Them Eat Vowels” concludes the album. It’s more of a story song than Malkmus is known for; the track sprawls across seven minutes with multiples different sections. The song—and the album—concludes with over a minute of instrumental into an abrupt fade out.
With Sparkle Hard, Stephen Malkmus has again demonstrated why he’s still able to sell tickets and records 30 years into his music career despite not having experienced mainstream success.