Monday, March 3, 2008

Record Review: Real Emotional Trash (2008)

The new record from the former Pavement frontman sees him and his Jicks taking the longer, jammy songs he has always experimented with and fleshing them out to make an LP. The results aren't necessarily the best thing.

Rating: 3/5

I need to begin this review by stating an obvious disclaimer. I am incredibly biased towards Stephen Malkmus, as I am a huge Pavement fan. I love basically everything he does. From Slanted and Enchanted to Face the Truth, I enjoy it all. That being said, Real Emotional Trash was sort of a letdown for me. Not that it's a bad record, by any means, because it isn't. I definitely enjoy listening to it, but trying to review the record from the standpoint of a casual listener makes me feel a bit disappointed.

Tracks like "Dragonfly Pie," the title track, and "Baltimore" are clear standouts that will likely be remembered as highlights of Malk's solo career. The chief problem with this album is that the whole thing is too jammy. While Malkmus has certainly gotten exponentially better at guitar over the years, there is no way that he has the technical ability to jam for an hour and keep it interesting. Steve has always been at his best when he writes pop songs, and sadly, this album does not have such gems. Sure, the occasional jam song can be good; I enjoy "Hopscotch Willie" and "Wicked Wanda." And hell, even the songs I listed as clear standouts are pretty jammy themselves (the title track is over ten minutes long!) However, when the record itself is just 60 minutes of SM wailing on his guitar, I tend to get a bit bored.

This is a solid record, I can safely say that. And if you like Stephen Malkmus/Pavement, especially some of the more crazy Wowee Zowee-era stuff, then by all means, take a listen to Real Emotional Trash. You will probably enjoy it. But if you are just a casual fan who has heard about the Pavement frontman, but never actually took a listen to his work, you are probably better off listening to 2005's Face the Truth, which is more accessible, poppy and generally more enjoyable.

Stephen Malkmus - Dragonfly Pie


Erik said...

I swear, this was not remotely influenced by the Pitchfork review, I just looked at it now

S.M. said...

Erik, how could you do this to me? I thought you were my biggest fan...