Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Mirror Traffic - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Mirror Traffic

by Priscilla Eyles Rating:7.5 Release Date:2011-08-23

Having the golden touch of Beck as producer can only be a good thing, just look at Charlotte Gainsbourg's superb IRM. The result is a more melodic Malkmus than of yore: gone are the extended jams and rock outs of previous album Real Emotional Trash which some critics said lacked focus. Beck has reigned in his and The Jick's sound to something more radio-friendly and accessible and not in a bad overly commercial way either.

First song and lead single 'Tiger' is a case in point , a summery breezy song with Becksian country slide guitar fills and quirky lyrics ("I caught you streaking in your Birkenstocks, a scary thought, in the 2ks"),which immediately makes you want to sing along. You can really hear them having fun on this album and that sense of fun is often infectious. Take another up-tempo song like 'Senator' with its tightly controlled rhythm, economic riffs, bursts of crashing guitars and drums, and irreverent chorus : "I know what senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job."

'Stick Figures in Love' is also great radio single material, a song you could imagine on the soundtrack to some cool indie film, and has hints of Grandaddy and The Moldy Peaches. It goes along at a driving pace and really showcases the band's great control and togetherness, as well as having some very cool sounding lead guitar work. 'Spazz', meanwhile, is a more experimental up-tempo number and the most Pavement-like on the album. Starting off with Malkmus talk-singing over punky, fast guitar riffs, it suddenly slows down and the morphs into a great bluesy, Black Keys-like instrumental break with a Serge Gainsbourg-esque chorus (possibly Sergeophile Beck's influence there).

The more slower-paced numbers are equally good: highlights include the lovely 'No One (is as are Be)', with its gentle lilt, lazy mood ("sit-ups are so bourgeoisie") - Malkmus singing it like he's just woken up - its muted brass, gentle piano and general Beck/60s feel (the percussion sounding very similar to something off Sea Change). The wistful, dreamy interlude 'Jumblegloss', with its underwater sounding guitar, is a great bit of musicianship and production and you wish it could go on longer. 'Asking Price' is a beautiful and elegiac song which takes in the isolating and primitive force that new technology brings ("We're uninvolving, have you heard of us, virtual unvirtuous"). Its warm organ and searing, distorted guitar act as perfect compliments to Malkmus's world-weary vocals.

This album could easily be the one that brings Malkmus further into the mainstream and that can only be a good thing.

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