Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied

by Rob Taylor Rating:4 Release Date:2019-03-15
Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied
Stephen Malkmus - Groove Denied

Stephen Malkmus strikes me as an over-achieving guy who sometimes willfully undermines himself, just for the sport of dicking around. Exploring different avenues of electronic and rave culture was unexpected but not entirely out of character. Less a case of re-inventing himself and more about rediscovering an affection for weirdness. Synths, drum machines, DJ software replace conventional instrumentation in an impetuous display of what the clever kid in the class can produce when given the creative tools. Didn’t say it was good though, did I? The repetitious and loud ascending and descending notes at the climax of ‘Belziger Facepaint’ are obnoxious, as disconnected with one another as they are with the audience. Malkmus’s blabbering palaver is like some drunken guy’s paean to Damo Suzuki. Malkmus already did that when he covered the whole of Ege Bamyasi a few years back. Still, Can were one of Malkmus’ main influences with Pavement, along with The Fall.

Sure, hanging out in Berlin can engender an affection for the city’s extraordinary club scene, but Malkmus could have taken a chill pill, and slipped silently into the underground as an observer. The first three tracks on Groove Denied certainly evidence some proficiency for krautrock and techno rhythms, however, there’s an insipid sterility about these tracks, a groveling tweeness that could induce a cerebral embolism if it wasn’t so easy to hit pause. 

Fortunately, as Groove Denied reaches ‘Come Get Me’, the terrain is more familiar. It’s almost as if Malkmus tired of frolicking unrestrainedly and remembered what he did well. Write off-kilter, slightly incoherent and oblique indie-pop. No matter, with ‘Forget Your Place’ he’s back indulging in more horseplay, this time trying to emulate Suicide.

The dippiness of the bossa nova rhythm on ‘Grown Nothing’ might be amusing for some, but once you’ve heard the sketch once, the punchline loses steam. Goes for pretty much the whole album.

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