Along with ex–Sonic Youth–er Thurston Moore and Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Stephen Malkmus is part of the trifecta of guitar titans who helped usher in the glory years of the Amerindie underground. Helming the era-defining Pavement, Malkmus revolutionized ’90s rock with stoner-pop anthemry, decade-defining lazy-assedness and quirk-filled inside-jokery.
But Malkmus hasn’t rested on that legacy alone. He continues to forge ahead as leader of the Jicks and, after a stint living in Berlin, has hauled it back to Portland, Oregon, and onto the new indie landscape. Much ado has been made about the new Wig Out at Jagbags, probably because this record—Malkmus’s sixth under his own name— actually surpasses his former band’s output.
After the solo-dominated psych jams of 2008’s Real Emotional Trash, Malkmus returned to loopy ’70s-style rock with 2011’s Mirror Traffic. The progression culminates with Jagbags, a weed-scented breath of luminous pop air, dripping with addictive melodies and topped by the leader’s patented schizophrenic verbiage. Malkmus sings of “Cinnamon and Lesbians,” reminisces of a “Mudhoney summer” and waxes about being “raised on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead,” as classic-rock histrionics meet liquidy kraut grooves. Who needs Pavement?—Brad Cohan