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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 108 - 07/21/05

Stephen Malkmus
Face the Truth
Matador

malkmus n. 1. an intelligent but shambolic individual given to idiosyncratic and charming expressive behaviour. v. 2. to appear to mess something up, but inadvertently stumble across a masterstroke. adj. 3. apparently incoherent, but actually rather insightful.

I will make it my life's work to put the word 'malkmus' in the dictionary. It's like ‘Malkovitch' combined with 'doofus' - someone who is undeniably brilliant, but goes about things in a very goofy fashion. 'Man, you're such a malkmus.' Or 'You totally malkmused that up!'

And so we have the former Pavement frontman's latest album. Guess what? He's not malkmused it up nearly enough. Whereas Pig Lib has been in almost permanent residence in my car stereo for the past month with its fantastic forays into prog-guitar extroversion and Pavement-esque songsmithery, Face the Truth has gone all Beck on us. Yep, while Dave Pajo has turned into Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus has turned into Beck circa Midnite Vultures or Mutations.

The songs just don't have the undeniable charm of Pavement's best, or of his previous solo work. Despite being deemed his finest album yet by a lot of reviewers, this is easily his least characteristically malkmus offering. It just tries too damn hard to be all the things that Malkmus isn't. All the songs are much more basic, and rely on extraneous arrangements in order to try and generate interest. In putting this thing together mostly on his own at his home studio in Portland, Oregon, he's lost the benefit of practising and refining the songs with the Jicks to make them malkmus enough.

Much like Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal) losing the sublime feel of his earlier albums by obsessing over the details on his own, it seems like Malkmus is trying too hard to make these songs sound like fully-rounded songs, and in doing so has denied us all the jagged edges that make his best work so malkmus.

Copyright © 2005 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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