Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

It was nearing the end of the summer of 2010 and I was sweating my balls off in Prague, drinking the common varieties of tasty Czech beer that I had grown to love during my half a year stay there – Gambrinus, Kozel, Staropramen and others – but mainly those three. I was loving my time there, but I had no computer, no guitar and, most importantly, tickets to the first Central Park Pavement show in September of 2010. I had purchased the ticket a year prior, before I even knew I’d be spending most of 2010 in Europe. What to do?

Well, I made the right decision and booked a flight back to the states, back to where I’d see one of the adored bands of my childhood perform for the first time. Okay, I missed my friends and family too, and my guitar, and my mountain bike, and sobriety (well, maybe not so much…)

And so, as Malkmus and the boys busted into the opening bars of “Shady Lane”, and I took a sip on my overpriced Central Park Summerstage beer and sparked up what was likely my tenth joint of the day, I was very happy that I was back in the states, even though I wouldn’t trade my time in Prague and the rest of Europe for anything. I was happy. I was having the time of my life. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, either.

Blast forward less than a year, and I’m ready to set off on another adventure. This time, on the continent of my birth, but on the other side of it. I will be wandering around California. And, I have a soundtrack – what, in my opinion, may wind up being my album of the year, the consistently engaging Mirror Traffic by a band called the Jicks, whose leader happens to be a dude named Stephen Malkmus, who happens to be the leader of Pavement. Nice.

The beauty of this album came as a surprise to me. I’ve spent the past several months listening to a lot of electronic music and hip hop, and I just didn’t expect to fall in love with a guitar-driven rock album at this time. I mean, I expected to like it, but not love it, not think, as I do, that it’s the best thing Malkmus has been involved in since Pavement, and maybe including Pavement. This album is that good. And I know that it will never be for me what Pavement is. It couldn’t. I can still recall vague, distant memories of driving down route 80 in Pennsylvania, blasting Crooked Rain as loud as I could stand, or skating some basketball court in my hometown late at night with “Summer Babe” emanating from the stereo of my car. These are not pivotal moments of my life, but the strength of the music made them into lasting memories, faded with time, but perhaps more meaningful because of that. This new record can never be that, because I’ve grown up, and the impressions left on us as children are endowed with a different kind of meaning than impressions left on our adult selves, though I’m not saying this is bad, or good, for that matter… just different. And yet, as the lead guitar of the track “Gorgeous Georgie” blasted from the speakers in my car as I drove home this evening, I got a tingling in my spine, and I felt good. I felt awesome, actually (no drugs were involved. I promise).

Mirror Traffic is a monster of an album. In many ways, it manages to harken back to that Pavementy vibe – the careless, care-free, profound-by-the-way-of-playful feel that Pavement did better than anyone, and which Malkmus always seemed to be moving away from with the Jicks albums, into more complex, intricate, at times jam-bandy or even proggy territory – and this record has that feel too, but in a better, more natural way. Nothing on this album seems forced. It is fun from start to finish, but engaging, complex, and musically inventive at the same time. But, enough words about this masterpiece. It needs to be heard, not talked about endlessly by a sea of people who just like to hear themselves type… So, in closing, I leave you a video for “No One Is (As I Are Be)”…

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One Response to “Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic”

  1. kalajour iil Says:

    this is good. good posts. funny shit.

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