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Published: 2011/10/04
by Ron Hart

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Mirror Traffic

A wise old Englishman once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”

Coming off the heels of a successful reunion tour we all thought would never happen, the desire of most Pavement fans was to see their favorite band make a long overdue return to the studio and follow up on their tepid swan song Terror Twilight. From the looks of things, though, that does not seem likely to happen, unfortunately. However, the need for frontman Stephen Malkmus to craft a solo album as essential as any of the classic works he conspired with his old band from Stockton, CA, has definitely been realized in the form of his latest LP with The Jicks.

Playing vintage slacker chestnuts like “Range Life,” “Shady Lane” and “Starlings of the Slipstream” night in and night out for a solid seven months has truly rubbed off on the material featured on Mirror Traffic. Malk’s fifth solo effort is the first to be produced by fellow Lollapalooza 1995 alumnus Beck Hansen, who brings the same elements of texture and detail to these fifteen tracks as he did with Thurston Moore’s pastoral masterpiece Demolished Thoughts earlier this year. Overall, this is essentially the kind of record Pavement should have made after Brighten The Corners, as songs like “Brain Gallop” and “Asking Price” could easily be mistaken for outtakes from that album’s Nicene Creedence deluxe edition. Despite its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter, “Senator” would not seem out of place on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, while sprawling numbers like “Long Hard Book” and “Gorgeous Georgie” can easily stand up lick for lick with the most intrinsic moments of Pavement’s freewheeling masterpiece Wowee Zowee.

But then again, you also have material on Mirror that sounds like nothing else Malkmus has ever delivered to us before. Songs such as “Fall Away” and “Share the Red” favors sentimentality over snark, something that surely became instilled in Stephen upon his descent into domestic life, as the beautiful poignancy of his voice as well as his excellent and incredibly underrated guitar playing has never come across more heartfelt and mature on record.

Mirror Traffic is the sound of Stephen Malkmus coming to grips with his legacy in the eyes of two generations of fans who have hung their hope onto every quirked out non-sequitur that has drolly dropped from his mouth since 1989. Indeed, it will be most intriguing to see where he takes this renewed sense of interest in his own history from here.

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