Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Wig Out at Jagbags

The title of the Jicks' latest (which name-checks a classic D.C. hardcore album by Dag Nasty) asks us to at least consider the connection between the legacy of Malkmus and the legacy of Ian MacKaye, to try and trace a line from Pavement's literate psych-noise to the blend of testosterone and critical consciousness fueling 1980s hardcore. Bands like Minor Threat, Descendants and Black Flag sang about being awakened and pissed off about the status quo (among other subjects).

They were sensitive, but they weren't pussies. That you can say the same about Malkmus has been perhaps his greatest trick, especially given his professorial-slash-Baudelairean air. He's a neo-Beatnik, not a bruiser; always has been. He can name-check the quasi-Marxist spirit of Dag Nasty and their contemporaries, but he can't embody it. What's fascinating is how that's clearly - per the title - part of his fantasy life.

Wig Out at Jagbags continues Malkmus' reign as indie rock's premier intellectual decadent. While his work with Pavement was all crumbling industrial transcendentalism, his Jicks phase has been about chronicling pleasure and developing nostalgia, like that line in "Lariat" about being raised on "Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead." On "Rumble at the Rainbo" he asks the listener to "come and join [him] in this punk rock tomb" where no one changes. Like on his previous Jicks records, Malkmus grants himself the authority to include himself in anything, anywhere. It's his lack of seriousness, the loose, discursiveness of the songs on Jagbags, that lets him get away with it.

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