Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2018-05-18
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard

Sparkle Hard moves towards a more unfastened sound than previous efforts by the Jicks. Neither wilfully off-centre nor adopting a safe position, Malkmus and band instead sound relaxed and carefree. There's piano lead tunes (Cast Off), tracks that caress the ears like the early 20th Century pastoral symphonies of Delius and Vaughan-Williams (Solid Silk), and there's anthemic rock music (Shiggy). It has all that, and yet it seems unfussy. Talented musicians at their apex, looking back at influences duly wiped from their sleeves.

There are some really interesting nods to the 12 string guitar sound adopted by Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips on Genesis's Trespass are found on 'Rattler' and 'Kite'. Malkmus does prog ! I don't mean that facetiously. Whether these are intended to be reverential musical quotes I don't know, and they definitely sound quirky, but Malkmus is, in fact, quirky and it plays to character.

For those missing the heyday of Pavement's Wowee Zowee, there's 'Refute', Father to a Sister of Thought's distant relative, full of the same country swagger and verve. Sounding like some wayward barn-dance jig at the beginning, it varies between that and secular choral. Perhaps like Polyphonic Spree. Lots of fun and like much on Sparkle Hard, it breathes slowly, doesn't seem forced. Malkmus was in a good place when he wrote this piece.

No no-one misses out, Malkmus plays guitar god on 'Bike Lane' and 'Kite', the latter positively streaming with youthful energy, while giving the nod to the golden days of classic 1970s concept rock. There's even a bit of ethereal organ, sounding very much like Tony Banks, who also played on the aforementioned Trespass album.

The closer, 'Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels' is a chopped up medley of styles. Funky, jazzy, soul driven indie-rock. Wilfully doing your head in.


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