According to some review I found while researching (putting “Stephen Malkmus” into Google and clicking everything for five pages) for the Analogue interview I did with him before his gig on Monday, Malkmus fans are divided into two camps. Those who like Face The Truth, and those who like Pig Lib. I want to preface this post by saying that I like both. I love Pavement, I like focused Malkmus a healthy amount, but I also genuinely enjoy the jam bits. So, unlike a lot of people I talked to after the gig, I wasn’t disappointed or surprised that he went mostly with the strung out guitar jams. I was actually pretty happy.
Thing is, to my ears, Malkmus guitar-waffle never descends into pointlessness. He has said in interviews that you’re not supposed to listen that closely to the instrumental breaks on Real Emotional Trash. But I think you can. Through all the solos in the live set (and there were solos in pretty much everything), my attention never wandered. It’s not just fucking around! Seriously! It’s what blues would be if shit, Record Collector magazine-reading, high school English teachers weren’t choking it to death through reverence and simultaneous enjoyment of 70s classic rock. The Jicks sound fresh to me, and distinctive. The really great instrumental parts were the best part of the show.
Thing is, by playing a lot of really long songs, there’s less time left to play some of the million excellent songs of average length in his catalogue. Pencil Rot? Jenny and the Ess-Dog? Also, by definition, Stephen Malkmus solo is hampered by the fact that half his audience at least is hoping every time he finishes a song that the next one is going to be Cut Your Hair. He even said “I need a hair cut” before one of his encore tunes (possibly Baby C’mon). Probably intentional, probably habitual.
He’s not hung up on being a solo artist. He had no complaints about talking about Pavement as if it was still a real entity in the interview. He’s just doing the jam-out thing right now, and it’s probably just as fun to pretend he’s going to play Cut Your Hair to him as it is to actually play Cut Your Hair. Still, he’s a fucker for teasing. Really enjoyable show, nonetheless. I put one of my favourites off Real Emotional Trash, Gardenia, up in the muxtape you can find in the sidebar, if you’re curious.