Review Summary: A fresh melodic breeze to usher in the new year...
If the recent end-of-year avalanche has taught us anything, it's that music listeners - and writers in particular - love rooting around for deeper meaning. Since music as an art-form carries an element of ambiguity, this perennial quest has plenty going for it, but surely it crosses the line when we're sourcing gallant social commentary and the base of the human soul in records ultimately devised as a spot of fun. Thank goodness, then, that 2014 has kickstarted with an album which defies overanalysis; one which requires merely a pair of ears and a receptive brain chamber to enjoy, and nary a hint of dedication nor speculative invention. Yeezus
' virtual antithesis, if you will.
Having led one of the more influential alternative groups of the past quarter-century, Stephen Malkmus has hardly been immune to binocular scrutiny. While this is palpable in the case of Pavement, however, the 47-year-old's solo output backed by long-time associates The Jicks almost repels such practices, so immaterial is its nature. To be clear, that's no gripe - merely a reflection that for all their obvious qualities, the six LPs yielded during this 14 year pairing have often bordered on trivial. Sure, you pick apart the lyrical themes contained within Jagbags
- references to age, and his old band's reunion are especially prevalent - but by and large they play second fiddle to Malkmus' enduring ear for a winning melody. How, for instance, could anyone bypass the sheer jubilance of 'Chartjunk,' whose solo fulfills the "wig out" promise housed in the title, or indeed 'Houston Hades,' whose effortless tune will bug employees as it carries you whistling through the working week?
There's certainly nothing converts aren't already accustomed to, but why should there be from a happily married father-of-two, whose middle-aged ambitions surely amount to comfort having spent most his life in the public glare? Besides, who can complain when what we're left with are the singular talents of one of indie rock's most consistent exponents, which for all their slacker vibes and inconsequantuality are still to seriously disappoint. Overanalysis be damned: At the end of the day, music exists for listeners' enjoyment, and although we're barely a week in, you can bet there won't be many records this year which succeed in that purpose with less fuss.