Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The exorcism of Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth
Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth
His name is Leather McWhip and he needs to be stopped
- Stephen Malkmus, "Pencil Rot"

McWhip is a fictional villain character apparently messing things up inside Stephen Malkmus' head in the excellent opening track ("Pencil Rot") to his great new release Face the Truth. Near as I can tell it's a song that speaks to songwriting corner that Malkmus had written himself into, with his work from Pavement creating quite a shadow - Leather McWhip's shadow - and Malkmus is desperate to exorcise this demon from him. In a crazy break in the song he sings:
I'm here to sing a song, a song about privelage,
The spikes you put on your feet when you were crawling and dancing to the top of the human shitpile, shitpile!
So now you've managed to illuminate something that was on all of their minds, all of their minds
and other people see themselves in you and I can see them in you too
Leather McWhip hit upon the slacker movement but his time has passed. "Pencil Rot" provides a great cathartic cleansing of this persona, and we're left with Malkmus' first truly great work since some of the peaks he achieved in Pavement (as Leather McWhip?) The opening track sounds the trumpets that this is an serious release, a supernova with keyboards that would sound at home at both in a Fiery Furnaces song (Blueberry Boat) or in a Lil' John cronk-freak out. And the latter, perhaps, is no coincidence. In a recent MTV interview, he drops some of his knowledge and appreciation of Crunk:
When Houston-style crunk first came out, it was based on drinking cough syrup and so much codeine.
They would do these mixes that were really slow. And the leader of the scene, his body gave out from too much Robitussin or something. And I love that ... these over-the-counter cough syrups are influencing music. Instead of marijuana for once, it's nice.
With the outing of the sardonic/sarcastic Leather McWhip, Malkmus is allowed to move into sincerety with the next track, the great "It Kills," which seems to take a lot of the jam-band excesses of Pig Lib and condense into a fantastically languid noise-pop rock workout. Then shortly after, he offers what's probably his most sincere song to date in "Freeze the Saints."
Just let yourself be and languish here, help me languish here
The first single, "Post-Paint Boy" is the only track on the album which you could call a typical Malkmus penned song, the kind we've become convinced he can do in his sleep. That's not bad, persay, just a safe selection... I imagine it was chosen as the single not to jar the middle-of-the-road Malkmus' fan, you know, the one's that wish he would write another "Cut Your Hair."

Another highlight is "Baby C'mon", which is joyous in it's unabashed sloppy rock and Malkmus' begging and pleading (and screaming) "BABY COME OOOOOOOOOON!" And nowhere else can someone get away with rhyming Timmy with Limb-y. It's sooooo wrong, yet sounds so right coming out of Malkmus' mouth.

But all talk of the album should begin and end with the song "No More Shoes," which is the shortest sounding 8-minute long song I've ever heard. The song harkens a bit to Pig Lib's prog-rock "1% Of One" only more focused and cohesive. Starting out with a laid back intro that's reminescent of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon," it runs through verse and chorus once before ripping into a three-minute soaring guitar free-for-all. Just in case you were thinking that Malkmus' new keyboard-heavy sound meant a sacrifice of the axe, here he's letting you know the chops are still there. When the song finally returns back to vocals, it's a scattered amphetamine stream-of conscious meander slowly coalescing it's way back to the Rhiannon-like mellowness, into a harmonized drone, finished off by a monster crescendo.

Perfect... like the album. Well... aside from the snoozer "Loud Cloud Crowd", that is. I find myself skipping that song every other listen (but it is growing on me.)

1 comment:

drake leLane said...

Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth

* "Pencil Rot" - Stephen Malkmus
* "It Kills" - Stephen Malkmus
* "I've Hardly Been" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Freeze The Saints" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Loud Cloud Crowd" - Stephen Malkmus
* "No More Shoes" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Mama" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Kindling For The Master" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Post-Paint Boy" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Baby C'mon" - Stephen Malkmus
* "Malediction" - Stephen Malkmus