Most people will know Stephen Malkmus as the front man for indie rock pranksters Pavement. Maybe ten years from now he’ll be known more than now as the front man for The Jicks as well. Malkmus has never really made a bad record in his years in the music industry. All of the releases post-Pavement with The Jicks have been better than what preceded them, and placed Malkmus down as a bankable artist in terms of content. On his new solo record Groove Denied, Malkmus continues that tradition of releasing quality music that we can all get into, while experimenting with new instrumentation that offers another side to what he does.
For the record, this is not a “typical” Stephen Malkmus release. Where albums from Pavement & The Jicks were immediate, Groove Denied sets the stage for a world cascading with electronic use and synthesizer based music. The opener doesn’t give you immediacy at all, and the second track “A Bit Wilder” isn’t trying to be a hook filled jam. What it is though is a slow build where Malkmus uses electronics like he’s been doing so for years. There’s no attempt to win over fans of Malkmus’ earlier body of work, and the album doesn’t really get kicking until “Viktor Borgia.” None of this is bad, it’s just different and a new approach from an artist who’s been trying to win your attention in the first couple of tracks for his entire career.
“Come Get Me” continues the chilled out and almost avant-garde feel of dirtied guitar tones and catchy melodies. With the use of the guitar, it’s about as close to this album gets to the past-one of two times here, the other being “Boss Viscerate.” Yet it’s still so different that you shouldn’t care. The swelling soundscapes of “Forget Your Place,” the disconnected and disarrayed psych rock notations of “Love the Door,”and the minimalist approach to “Grown Nothing” echoes that Malkmus is doing exploratory musical surgery here, and the patient still survives. The standout track is probably “Ocean of Revenge” because it takes so much of what could be another project, and swirls it in a sea of disaffected tones and experimental passes. At this point in, Stephen Malkmus can do whatever he wants, and it should be obvious to anyone listening that this album has just as much intrigue and snap as anything else in his catalog.
You can stream Groove Denied on all streaming platforms, you can purchase it in all digital retailers, or you can pick it up physically on vinyl or compact disc directly from Matador Records. Stephen Malkmus will be performing solo beginning May 01 in Toronto, Canada at The Great Hall until May 15 in Los Angeles, CA at Lodge Room. A complete listing of his solo tour can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Robbie Augspurger.