Egon Schiele and French Knee-Highs: A thread for Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, "Sparkle Hard"

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Because I don't know if anyone else would have started this thread, and because I've had a promo for weeks and have come to love this record. As I've mentioned to several people, this sounds like Malkmus spent some time listen to the past six records in his basement and though "it's time to take some chances here."

FROM THE PRESS SHEET:

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’ new album Sparkle Hard will be released on May 18th on Matador Records and can be pre-ordered HERE. The band will tour North America this summer, hitting major markets including Chicago, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, and the full list of tour dates can be found below.

In February, the band shared its twangy single “Middle America,” which, as Rolling Stone noted: “The former Pavement leader has given us hundreds of perfect Cali-gold guitar hooks. But the tender beauty of his latest with the Jicks is rare even by his high standard.” As a follow up, the band today shares another taste of the new album with the song, “Shiggy,” an insanely gleeful, old-school four-chord stomper.

Modesty and plain good manners might prevent them from saying so themselves, but the fact that Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks have thrived, rather than simply endured over 17 years and delivered six albums of buzzy, sub-cultural significance, constitutes an impressive legacy. The challenge with album number seven is one that any successful band with integrity faces: how to safeguard that legacy and hold on to their identity without rehashing old ground (unthinkable), and also say something meaningful while (crucially) having fun doing it?

Meeting that issue head on in the run up to The Jicks’ seventh record involved some “navel gazing”, according to singer, songwriter, and guitarist Malkmus and not only in terms of what it means to be releasing music in 2018. If, like him, you’re a voracious consumer of all kinds of culture and feel the need to interact with it, rather than just react, then inevitably “there’s a world that prompts you to put your best foot forward”. With Sparkle Hard Malkmus, Mike Clark (keyboards), Joanna Bolme (bass) and Jake Morris (drums) do exactly that. And they hit the ground running – on air treads.

It’s light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, goodtime and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes (Auto-Tune! A fiddle! Guest vocalist Kim Gordon! One seven-minute song with an acoustic folk intro!) – The Jicks refashioned. If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. It also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.

Malkmus started writing Sparkle Hard in 2015. He’d upgraded his home-recording equipment and bought some electronic drums and had been working on the Netflix series Flaked (he penned the incidental music and the end theme song). Demos were done in one day in April of 2017 and then in May, The Jicks started recording at a new studio in Portland called Halfling, which is managed by multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk of The Decemberists, who produced the album.

Self-indulgent escapism has never been The Jicks’ bag, but on Sparkle Hard, the reality of modern life sits closer to the surface, communication cutting to the chase whether it’s a proto-punk grind or a back-porch country duet doing the talking. A cleaner burn for dark and complex times.

Sparkle Hard Tracklisting:
1. Cast Off
2. Future Suite
3. Solid Silk
4. Bike Lane
5. Middle America
6. Rattler
7. Shiggy
8. Kite
9. Brethren
10. Refute (ft. Kim Gordon)

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 28 March 2018 23:35 (two months ago) Permalink

Was going to share YouTube links to the first two tracks out, am having trouble finding these songs; they're running a tight ship this cycle. But there's this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9KQP3Cbt_g

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 28 March 2018 23:40 (two months ago) Permalink

(I haven't gotten used to the idea of linking to tracks on Spotify or Apple Music yet.)

When "Middle America" first came out I was underwhelmed; my initial impression was that the music was really pretty but the lyrics were blah, but the whole has grown on me over time.

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 28 March 2018 23:44 (two months ago) Permalink

I kind of dug the crunchy sound of the last LP, but these new tracks sound very much like standard-issue Jicks.

absorbed carol channing's powers & psyche (morrisp), Saturday, 31 March 2018 04:52 (two months ago) Permalink

what kind of chances did they take?

alpine static, Saturday, 31 March 2018 06:44 (two months ago) Permalink

Middle America's chorus sounds a lot like Loud Cloud Crowd's, cf:

Crush me back to where I belong
Hold me down with anchor strong

vs

Fractured knees, calamaties
Enfold me in serenity

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 31 March 2018 06:56 (two months ago) Permalink

lol I thought the same thing

rap is dad (it's a boy!), Saturday, 31 March 2018 13:45 (two months ago) Permalink

Just wait until you hear the full album.

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:47 (two months ago) Permalink

(Or maybe the tonal shifts within some of the as-yet unreleased songs, the thematic subject matter, the use of auto-tune, etc. are left turns only to me. We'll see.)

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:49 (two months ago) Permalink

Malk i'view in Pfork today (I found the interviewer's "as a millennial, I feel..." lines of questioning to be sorta amusing): https://pitchfork.com/features/interview/stephen-malkmus-on-how-to-be-a-useful-human/

absorbed carol channing's powers & psyche (morrisp), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:50 (two months ago) Permalink

(The link I posted a few minutes ago was to the acoustic Malkmus mini set.)

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:52 (two months ago) Permalink

xp
He also missed the chance to "point out" that the contrast SM apparently draws in this "Bike Lane" song is v similar to theme of "Grounded," from many moons ago

absorbed carol channing's powers & psyche (morrisp), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:53 (two months ago) Permalink

Reading this description by Malk, I'm gonna bet very little of this actually comes thru in the song itself:

The song starts really minimal, like Queens of the Stone Age on Xanax, and then changes into glam, like the Clash or something. In my mind, I was singing like the Ramones. It’s totally dark, like the cops and robbers stories of rock’n’roll: I fought the law and the law won, a lot of classic imagery of the outlaw.

absorbed carol channing's powers & psyche (morrisp), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:55 (two months ago) Permalink

(also: "glam, like the Clash or something"?)

absorbed carol channing's powers & psyche (morrisp), Monday, 2 April 2018 23:56 (two months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

RE:

Middle America's chorus sounds a lot like Loud Cloud Crowd's, cf:

Crush me back to where I belong
Hold me down with anchor strong

vs

Fractured knees, calamaties
Enfold me in serenity

― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, March 30, 2018 11:56 PM (one month ago)

On Vish Khanna's podcast/interview with SM, SM mentions that "Middle America" shares the same tuning & chord relationships as "Freeze The Saints", "Shoot The Singer" & "Zurich Is Stained".

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 18 May 2018 03:55 (one month ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

"Solid Silk" reminds me of a 90s Thurston song off of EJST&NS or Psychic Hearts.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 7 June 2018 16:47 (one week ago) Permalink

"Middle America"'s line: "Men are scum I won't deny" also echoes back to Thurston's line on Dirty's "100%": "But I've been around the world a million times/And all you men are slime"...

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 7 June 2018 16:58 (one week ago) Permalink

I loved Jagbags but after listening to this one a few times I think I'm ready to declare it my least favorite SM album.

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 7 June 2018 18:26 (one week ago) Permalink

i think this is my third fav SM album behind Pig Lib and the s/t

mizzell, Thursday, 7 June 2018 18:35 (one week ago) Permalink

He's been closing his sets with "No Tan Lines" of late.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 8 June 2018 18:10 (one week ago) Permalink

ha, that's a funny one to dig out — i don't think pavement ever played it live.

tylerw, Friday, 8 June 2018 18:13 (one week ago) Permalink

Wow, that’s a great one!

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Friday, 8 June 2018 18:19 (one week ago) Permalink

^It occurred to me that maybe he’s playing that song b/c of the (now-opportune) lyric, “I live to be grey, I live to be GREY!”

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Wednesday, 13 June 2018 04:16 (six days ago) Permalink

Does anyone get a STRONG Wilco vibe from a lot of this record?
Kite sounds directly influenced. His singing is very Tweedy, the krautrocky momentum, even the guitar solo blasts off in a very Nels Cline way.
Not the only song to give off a Wilco vibe.

edges, Monday, 18 June 2018 15:36 (yesterday) Permalink


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