Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - The Old Market, Hove - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - The Old Market, Hove

by Alexis Somerville Rating:9 Release Date:2012-03-12

Stephen Malkmus may be best known for his role as frontman and lead songwriter of Pavement but, after 14 years, The Jicks have existed for longer than the seminal indie band ever did.

 

It’s a rainy Bank Holiday Monday in Hove and the streets are quiet and dreary, contrasting with the bustling warmth of The Old Market. Support comes from Mazes, an energetic indie-rock band from Manchester. Highlights of their set include ‘Universal Me’ and final track ‘Skulking’, which sounds as post-punk and moody as you’d hope for a song of that name.

 

Then it's time for the main event. The Jicks' opener however, is beset by a series of technical difficulties. ‘Tigers’ features an impromptu appearance from a roadie who keeps trying to fix the problem, to no avail. At the end Malkmus asserts, with a twinkle in his eye, that it’s a “good thing this didn’t happen last night at that festival when Lana Del Rey was opening for us” (a reference to Rock en Seine in Paris). Then remembers that they were supported by Mazes tonight and adds a caveat that he means no disrespect. The main issue appears to be that his wah-wah pedal isn’t working so he abandons it and carries on.

 

As a frontman, Malkmus is so affable that it almost wouldn’t matter if the songs didn’t live up to expectations. But they do - generally less poppy and more proggy than his old band, but still engaging and lyrically charming. ‘Lariat’ is a highlight of the set. In theory, none of these songs should really be catchy, and yet many of them defy the laws of gravity and get stuck in your head for days. ‘Lariat’ especially, with its playfully rhyming lyrics: “Only a chariot could carry it... We lived on Tennyson and venison and The Grateful Dead.”

 

They perform a good selection of tracks from their latest album, Wig Out at Jagbags. ‘Cinnamon and Lesbians’ is another highlight, with its irresistible hook. ‘Houston Hades’ also goes down well. The band have great chemistry and really seem to enjoy performing together, making affectionate jokes and often looking like they're unable to contain their joy at being on stage together.

 

Malkmus tells us about the origins of the song ‘Buttons’, partially written by his daughter when she was three. He sensibly googled her words to make sure she wasn’t quoting a kids’ book, and, satisfied that she wasn't ripping off The Wind in the Willows, used them in the song. Luckily, it doesn't sound like it was written by a tiny child, or at least an ordinary one (perhaps Malkmus' offspring have inherited his knack for an intelligent, off-the-wall lyric).

 

At one point a Canadian man in the audience gets a bit shouty and the band try to do impressions of his accent, which reminds Malkmus of Under the Skin, a film he saw recently in which Scarlett Johansson affects an English accent. He describes it succinctly as “A horror film with naked her” and goes on the dedicate the next song - 'J Smoov' - to the director, Jonathan Glazer.

 

Malkmus later accuses the crowd of being drunk, only to be told that most people are hungover. “Oh yeah,” he responds, remembering that it’s Bank Holiday Monday. “Getting fucked on a Sunday night is... different.”

 

The set ends with the fantastic 'Surreal Teenagers'. The threat of a late night and a rude return to work hangs over the crowd, and yet the cries for an encore are not half-hearted. We are duly rewarded with a jam session based on the songs ‘Old Jerry’ and ‘Us’.

 

The Jicks’ songs are pretty great on record but make even more sense when performed live, given their onstage chemistry and Malkmus’ charisma. Long may they continue touring.

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