When I realised that Stephen Malkmus really liked guitars wrote mad words and dug CAN I thought I might really like him more than casually. But for some reason I like a record, miss a record – I guess I have to be in the mood for him. His latest album is like Jonathan Richman and the Violent Femmes via sixties Love – and the seventies! It’s a constructed melodic mish mash – it’s also packed full of indie humour, jokes that people of my age don’t get (or want to, like the title) guitar solos and irony. It’s music that annoys people and people love. It’s a slacker punk ethic with sixties and seventies flavours by a brainy guy who probably smokes loads of pot. He might have been well received at Woodstock with Country Joe (how little has changed).
But the analysis is really irrelevant, it serves no purpose. It’s like judging a stranger’s casual walk, it starts and it ends. What is appealing about Malkmus is his seemingly effortless ability to do whatever he wants and have a whole lot of people like it – it’s just organised enough, mad enough, eccentric enough, melodic enough and easy enough on the ear to breeze along to. No one cares about his singing or the playing or whether the drummer is great. It’s just anonymous and underplayed enough to be cool but seems to be about something and you get the feeling that you have to know the secret handshake to care. It’s like trying to explain the odder Julian Cope solo records to a Cream fan. It isn’t bad but it isn’t really better than anything in the sixties or seventies – or the nineties – or now. It’s the recycling of the same life cycle that we older guys already know about – Syd wrote mad lyrics too.
Audiences, fans seem to be attracted to their own age group, their contemporaries, although some acts (and that’s what they are) transcend their demographic, Nick Cave for example, or Wayne Coyne or My Bloody Valentine and even Stephen Malkmus was born in the sixties so he’s getting up there and hip teenagers would have little time for him. But what do I think of the record? Well it doesn’t hold up that well to analysis but I like it. I like the snippets of hilarious lyrics that jump out of the songs, I like the way the record sounds, I like the band, I like how they sound like a less stuck up Pixies when they are electric and a bit different on the horn and acoustic J Smoov, Lou Reed meets Al Green at a frat house without a party – or is it Lenny Kravitz realising why Let Love Rule was real.
I digress, I see nodding heads and no one my age, like at a Robin Trower gig when you’re the youngest if you’re in your late thirties. I wonder if I need records like this when there’s Captain Beefheart and Henry Cow? I wonder do people buy records like this because they simply don’t know about all those amazing records that came out before they were born that aren’t by The Who or The Beatles or Led Zeppelin – the ones they’ve heard of. Is it important that this record is new? Tell me again why each generation must have its own music, its own heroes if it is the same model as the generation before it? I like Stephen Malkmus but like Jonathan Wilson – I can’t defend him to my generation.