I've tried to avoid reading too much about Stephen Malkmus' new album so I could really come to it more on my own terms. Basically, I really want to taste it first for myself, without the menu descriptions. But I've been sick and busy and only gotten in a couple fractured listens, even after a few days with the album. So some opinions have filtered in and I've gathered that it's considered somewhat of a psychedelic or loopy album. Maybe.
But what I haven't picked up on anywhere is the fact that Real Emotional Trash is the type of guitar album that's paradise when it's played live. And that was my first exposure to the music - a rare album-less tour for Malkmus just over a year ago, when he played six of the album's 10 songs in their road-test mode.
This four-piece version of the Jicks is just right for Malkmus. He's got an absolute crasher on drums in Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss, who manages to chip in some backup singing as well. Portland bassist Joanna Bolme has been a recording engineer and longtime fixture in Northwest indie circles. And Mike Clark delivers rock-solid grooves on guitar and keyboards.
I think it would be one of the more fascinating musical time-transportations you could think of to hear Malkmus fronting a 1960s garage band - all hair and moustache and proto-punk spirit, far quirkier than you ever found in that era. I'm by no means a Malkmus or Pavement expert - I picked him up in the Terror Twilight era as part a batch of taste filtered over from my roommate Dr. Chung (a big thank you for all that influence, by the way Doctor, especially Neutral Milk Hotel and Magnetic Fields in addition to the Malk). But Malkmus' music has always struck me as oddly approachable for how weird it can get. And the latest is no different.
This post isn't meant to serve as any sort of a proper review for Real Emotional Trash - really more of a preparatory exercise to really soaking in the album than any thing. But for those who appreciate the album, check out these road-test versions:
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (live)
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Baltimore (live)
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - We Can't Help You (live)
Get whole show as a zip: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Live Tucson, 2007-01-09
(The Pictures are part of some wonderful behind the scenes stuff on the Malkmus Web site.)